Cancer Diagnostic turns out to be a Tapeworm

Rachel Palma’s symptoms decided as being cancer, after numerous examining scans and exclusions of other diseases. She started experiencing these manifestations last year, in January.

She experienced involuntary spasms on her right hand, causing her to drop things, and the worst symptoms, she said, were the scary hallucinations.

One time, Palma locked herself out of her house, and another time, out of her bank account. She wasn’t able to process that a key opens a door, and her perceptions changed in such manner that if someone asked for a key, she would hand them a pen.

Her symptoms weren’t continual, but appeared suddenly with hallucinations, dropping things and severe disorientation.

After the doctors from the emergency room, Palma visited at least ten times in the following months, ruled out a brain bleed, Palma’s primary care physician identified a small lesion on a brain scan she took. He sent her to Dr. Jonathan Rasouli, chief resident of neurosurgery at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Dr. Rasouli and his team decided to do a biopsy of the lesion. However, they warned Palma that the surgery might be risky because the location of the lesion was extremely close to the brain function that is responsible for speech.

Her first operation took place on September the 10, 2018, followed by another, which was supposed to remove the suspected tumor, on September 12.

Rasouli remembers being surprised by the supposed tumor, which looked nothing like a tumor would usually look. The surgeon then took the extracted lesion, placed it under a microscope, and opened it up. To his surprise, a baby tapeworm came out.

No explanation of how it get there

Rasouli explained that the medical term used for when a baby tapeworm makes its way up to the brain is called ‘neurocysticercosis.’ The surgeon, however, said that if one lives in the US, it’s close to impossible to get it.

But US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention evaluates 1,000 hospitalizations concerning neurocysticercosis​ in the US every year.

Cysticercosis​ appears when a person ingests eggs found in the feces of someone with an intestinal tapeworm. Tapeworm eggs disperse through contaminated food, water, or any kind of surface. People having tapeworms can infect themselves and other people with cysticercosis​. In a few of the cases, the infection spreads to the brain, like Palma’s case.

​Palma says that there is no possible explanation of how she took it. She never traveled outside the United States, and she said she never eats raw foods or meat.

As to this day, Palma has no symptoms, and she is feeling good. If the tapeworm hadn’t been extracted, it could have triggered a stroke or even death.

Palma advice people to see a good doctor if they experience symptoms they cannot explain or are concerning.

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Emmy Skylar

About the Author: Emmy Skylar

Emmy Skylar started working for Debate Report in 2017. Emmy grew up in a small town in northern Manitoba. But moved to Ontario for university. Before joining Debate Report, Emmy briefly worked as a freelance journalist for CBC News.  She covers politics and the economy.

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