Yamini Karanam, 26, was diagnosed with a tumor in her brain–but it turned out to be much stranger.
Karanam, who is from Indiana, underwent surgery in Los Angeles only to have doctors discover her embryonic twin in her brain, as NBC reported.
After awaking from the surgery, she was surprised that a “teratoma,” or embryonic twin–a rarity in modern medicine–was in her head. The twin was complete with hair, bone, and teeth.
Karanam, an Indiana University Ph. D. student, noticed that something was strange as she was having difficulty comprehending the things she read.
“Problems with reading comprehension, listening comprehension. If a couple people were talking in a room, I wouldn’t understand what was happening,” Karanam told NBC.
“Then came the headaches. Slips and misses at work followed,” she also wrote on her blog. “There were doctors. First, a couple of them and then more.”
“The fear didn’t sink in yet,” Karanam added.
“[My] will was undeterred because it was hardly put to test. [My] energy levels were sinking and fatigue started crippling [my] days. … Months and weeks slipped through [my] fingers. There weren’t any diagnostic procedures left to run on [me]. Consultations followed procedures but nobody said anything useful. It was like white noise passed from the doctor to the patient to the support system.”
“Now, they called it a tumor and that’s all 21st century medicine could do in three months.”
She did her own research after doctors gave her conflicting diagnoses. That led her to Dr. Hrayr Shahinian at the Skullbase Institute in Los Angeles.
Karanam said her symptoms started to get worse, and she was having trouble walking and was experiencing pain throughout her body.
“Unlike traditional brain surgery where you open the skull and use metal retractors and you bring a microscope to see in the depths of the brain, what we’re doing is keyhole surgery,” he said.
When she awoke to learn about the embryonic twin, she joked that it was her “evil twin sister who’s been torturing me for the past 26 years.”
According to Cancer.gov, a teratoma is “a type of germ cell tumor that may contain several different types of tissue, such as hair, muscle, and bone. Teratomas may be mature or immature, based on how normal the cells look under a microscope. Sometimes teratomas are a mix of mature and immature cells. Teratomas usually occur in the ovaries in women, the testicles in men, and the tailbone in children. They may also occur in the central nervous system (brain or spinal cord), chest, or abdomen. Teratomas may be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).”
The earliest reference to a teratoma is thousands of years ago.
They are “found on a clay tablet dating from 600 to 900 BC from the Chaldean Royal Library of Nineveh,” according to ASU’s website.
“These tablets dealt with different ways of predicting the future, and one prediction stated that prosperity will follow a woman giving birth to a child with three legs. According to Andrew, et al. (2001), James E. Wheeler concludes in his History of Teratomas that this must have been reference to the discovery of a benign teratoma, likely found at the base of the spine. Pathologists and physicians have been fascinated by teratomas over the intervening centuries, often believing them to be signs of the devil,” it says.