A doctoral student who moved from India to Indiana to study computer science and was complaining of headaches and fatigue, shocked the medical community and herself when doctors discovered a brain tumor that contained bones, hair and teeth.
On her blog, 26-year-old Yamini Karanam wrote that initially she thought she may be tired, or that her schoolwork was too difficult. When she went on a vacation, she wound up sleeping for two weeks straight, and soon after started suffering from headaches. After three months of testing, doctors determined she had a tumor, which by that point had left her mostly bedridden.
Though doctors had located a tumor in her brain’s pineal region, they determined that removal was risky and could cause irreversible damage to her brain. After six months of searching, Karanam found Dr. Hrayr Shaninian, a neurologist at the Skullbase Institute in Los Angeles, who agreed to perform the surgery.
Friends held a fund-raiser to fly her out to Los Angeles for the procedure, which occurred April 15. Through an incision in the back of her head, doctors used an endoscope to enter the area of her brain where the tumor was, The Washington Post reported. There, instead of finding a tumor, surgeons found a teratoma -- a mass of bone, hair and teeth.
Teratomas are embryonal tumors -- the most common brain tumors in infants less than 36 months old -- that are typically benign, but are defined as being composed either of tissues that are foreign to the area, or tissues that derive from all three of the germ layers. Germ layers contribute to the formation of all organs and tissues during embryonic development, according to The Embryo Project Encyclopedia. These masses can sometimes contain hair, teeth, bone neurons or even eyes.
"This is my second one, and I've probably taken out 7,000 or 8,000 brain tumors,” Shahinian told NBC 4.
Karanam referred to the tumor as her “evil twin sister who’s been torturing me for the past 26 years,” NBC 4 reported.
According to The Washington Post, it’s unclear whether the teratoma is Karanam’s twin, but it was killing her.
Shaninian said her tumor was not cancerous, and expects her to make a full recovery.