Doctors discovered a second almost full-sized spleen in a young Emirati woman in what is believed to be only the 30th case of its kind globally.
The organ was discovered after the 20-year-old patient presented with a large abdominal mass with pain, weight loss and nausea.
Doctors initially thought she was suffering from a cancerous tumour.
But further investigation revealed it was in fact what is known as an accessory spleen, which had been present since birth.
Second spleens are not particularly rare.
An estimated 10 to 30 per cent of people are believed to be born with more than one.
But what made this woman’s so different was its size at 10cm, which is only marginally smaller than a full-size spleen at 12cm. Masses measuring larger than 4cm are very rare, according to studies.
It was also hidden behind the abdominal cavity, far from the main one and connected to several arteries and veins.
The first-year university student said she had not experienced any unusual symptoms until shortly before she underwent surgery.
“I began to feel nausea and pain in the stomach and abdominal area. And two weeks ago, I lost 10kg of weight because [the pain] prevented me from eating,” said the woman, who was not named.
“I went to one of the hospitals, which told me that it was a rare tumour and had to be removed, but I preferred to take more than one medical opinion.”
She said she was grateful she did.
Dr Ali Ayoub, a consultant gastroenterologist, who performed the surgery at Burjeel Medical City in Abu Dhabi, said the hospital carried out tests and conducted a CT scan on the abdomen, which showed the presence of a large mass in the left side of the upper abdomen behind the colon near the left kidney, pancreas and aorta.
“I had a strong feeling that this case is rare and that it is not a cancerous tumour because of the block site,” said Dr Ayoub, who is head of the department.
A team of urologists, general surgeons and oncologists decided to proceed with the operation to remove it.
The procedure, which lasted nine hours, was performed using keyhole surgery, which involves making small holes, rather than large incisions, to speed up recovery.
“I left the hospital in less than a week and all of that was removed. My pains left and I went back to my normal life as if nothing had happened,” said the patient.