A woman in California has had her tattoos erroneously assumed to be cancer by doctors.

The 32-year old woman who had cervical cancer underwent  a body image scan where doctors noticed bright areas in her lymph nodes, suggesting her cancer had spread.

But it was only after surgery to treat the cancer that they realized the real reason for the bright spots was her tattoo.

Apparently, the PET/CT scan had shown not only the woman's cervical tumor, but also bright spots on the lymph nodes in her pelvis, which looked suspiciously like cancer metastases but  were really just her tattoo (She had 14 of them).

To treat her cervical cancer, the woman had surgery to remove her uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes and pelvic lymph nodes.

But when doctors later examined cells from the woman's lymph nodes under a microscope, they saw that the cells contained deposits of tattoo ink, not cancer.

The doctors revealed this in their report of her case, published today in the journal, Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Said study co-author and assistant clinical professor of gynecologic oncology, Dr. Ramez Eskander:

"Those lymph nodes that were lighting up brightly on the PET scan were doing so because of the tattoo pigment that was in the lymph nodes,"

Eskander also added that there had previously been reports of tattoo ink spreading to people's lymph nodes and showing up on PET scans in patients with other cancers, including breast cancer and melanoma.

However she said this appeared to be the first case reported in a patient with cervical cancer.

While seeing the brightly lit lymph nodes did not change the doctors' surgical plan in the woman's case, Eskander said it's important doctors are aware that extensive tattoos could look like cancer on PET scans, because this could change the way they treat a patient.

The woman reportedly didn't have any complications after her surgery, and was allowed to leave the hospital after 3 days.