After complaining of abdominal pain and a feeling of heaviness, a woman’s otherwise routine visit to the doctor ended up turning into surgery to remove an 88-pound tumor — an ovarian cyst — that swelled from her belly to her diaphragm.
The case happened in early 2003, although scientists have just now published the report in the Journal of Medical Case Reports, detailing the method of removal and the true size of the tumor. While few ovarian cysts negatively affect postmenopausal women during their lifetimes, as most are tiny and benign, a small portion are cancerous and can grow as large as an orange. The 57-year-old Brazilian woman’s case was slightly unique, however. Her particular tumor had grown to 16.5 in. by 15.75 in. by 11 in., or roughly equivalent to a Thanksgiving turkey.
Cysts are common among women between 30 and 50, typically during menopause. Because they’re so small, many women chalk up the bloated feelings to weight gain. One day a pair of jeans fits; the next it doesn’t. Some cysts, like the case study subject’s, are filled with mucous. And with its enormous size, doctors went to great lengths not to puncture the tumor.
"When you cut it open, mucus just comes pouring out," Dr. Jonathan Herman, an obstetric surgeon at Long Island Jewish Medical Center not involved with the study, told Live Science. "Mucus is very heavy, so they grow to a large size."
By the time the woman approached doctors, the cyst had pushed her waist to 52 inches in circumference. Her breathing had quickened. Doctors put her on chemotherapy, which she underwent for six rounds. She had her uterus removed, part of her fallopian tubes, and some of her lymph nodes.
Thankfully, according to researchers, the removal was successful, as she’s been asymptomatic for 10 years and has normal imaging, all while under specialized follow-up care.