A Woman’s Weight Gain Turned Out to Be an 86-Pound Ovarian Tumor

  • A woman in Italy went to her doctor after months of unexplained weight gain and stomach pain.
  • She found out that she had a massive tumor in her abdomen from a rare form of ovarian cancer.
  • Doctors removed the 86-pound tumor and the woman is now cancer free.

At a doctor’s office in Italy, a female patient presented with a swollen belly and stomach pains, and said that she had gained about 55 pounds over the past ten months.  The symptoms normally might point to pregnancy —  if the patient wasn’t 62 years old.

Besides the stomach pain, swelling, and some shortness of breath, all of her other tests came back normal. 

Doctors opted to perform exploratory surgery and remove whatever was growing in the woman’s abdomen. When they opened her up, they discovered an 86-pound tumor, which they described in a recent JAMA Clinical Challenge.

Surgery revealed a rare tumor heavier than 4 watermelons

The tumor was a mucinous ovarian carcinoma, a rare subtype of ovarian cancer characterized by fluid-filled cancer cells that are coated in mucus, that had originated from the patient’s left ovary. Mucinous ovarian carcinoma accounts for about 2-3% of new ovarian cancer diagnoses.  

The doctors were able to remove the tumor in one piece, which is important for fluid-filled tumors. Spilling the tumors’ contents during surgery may increase the risk that the cancer will come back, according to a 2019 review published in Radiographics.

The tumor, once removed, measured 19.7 inches long and weighed nearly 86 pounds — bigger and heavier than four large watermelons.

Mucinous tumors can balloon to huge sizes, so they tend to be found early compared to other types of ovarian cancer, according to the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Fortunately, patients who are diagnosed with stage I mucinous ovarian carcinoma have a 5-year survival of 90% or higher if they get the tumor removed completely, according to a review in the International Journal of Gynecological Cancer.

The patient in Italy recovered well after her surgery and was discharged from the hospital five days later, her doctors wrote. At a six-month follow-up appointment, she was symptom-free and had no markers of cancer in her blood.

Ovarian tumors can be dangerous at any size

Even larger ovarian tumors have been described in medical literature; in 2018, doctors removed a 132-pound mass from a 38-year-old woman in Connecticut. Her tumor was not cancerous, but it grew to be so large that it affected her digestion.

But the size of a tumor doesn’t have anything to do with how dangerous it is. In fact, mucinous tumors like the woman in Italy had are benign in about 80% of cases, borderline cancerous in 10% of cases, and the remaining 10% are malignant.

Smaller ovarian masses can be just as lethal, and about 13,270 women in America will die of ovarian cancer this year — often because other forms of the cancer are only diagnosed when they are much more advanced.

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