17-Year-Old Girl's Tumor Turned Out to Be Twin She Absorbed in Utero

A 17-year-old's abdominal pains turned out to be the twin she absorbed in utero.
A 17-year-old's abdominal pains turned out to be the twin she absorbed in utero. (BMJ Publishing Group Limited 2019)

A 17-year-old who complained of stomach pains discovered that it was no illness or malady, but her growing twin she absorbed in utero.

Doctors were shocked to remove “hairy cheesy material, multiple teeth and structures resembling limb buds” from a mass on the Indian teen’s abdomen that had been growing in size over the last five years.

“I was much worried about my abdominal lump,” the unnamed patient told doctors, according to the case report, which was published earlier this month in BMJ Case Reports. “After operation, I am feeling very well and my abdomen is now flat and my parents are also very happy.”

She was diagnosed with fetus in fetu, a rare condition in which a fetus who died in utero is found in the living twin’s body after birth. It is believed to happen in about one in 500,000 births but less than 200 cases worldwide have been reported.

The 17-year-old girl’s case was even more rare since it is the first case of fetus in fetu in an adult woman. Researchers say the scenario usually presents itself early on in life and usually in males.

Symptoms began presenting themselves as the patient entered her teen years, when she began feeling on and off pain in her abdomen and she didn’t have much of an appetite, even though she wasn’t losing weight.

Otherwise, everything else seemed routine and she had no family history of twins or teratomas.

“On abdominal examination, there was a mass involving the whole of her abdomen,” researchers said. “The abdominal lump was firm to hard in consistency, its surface was irregular, margins were ill-defined and it was not moving with respiration.”

When further scans showed “vertebrae, ribs and long bones,” doctors decided to operate.

In addition to “hairs, mature bones and other body parts,” doctors said they also detected “neural, intestinal, cartilaginous and bone” elements inside the tumor.

Thankfully, the surgery was a success, and the teen patient hasn’t reported anything else out of the ordinary in the two years since the tumor was removed.

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