Doctors in Abu Dhabi have removed a cancerous tumour the size of a house cat from the pancreas of a 50-year-old woman.
The life-threatening growth weighed 3.5 kilograms when surgeons extracted it at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
Doctors said the patient was just weeks away from death had they not intervened to remove the tumour that was continuing to grow in her abdomen.
“She was very weak when she arrived at the hospital and her stomach had expanded to an extent that she felt pregnant,” said Dr Naveed Ahmed, a surgeon in the digestive disease institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
“The large mass kept growing inside the abdomen and was intimately attached to the major vessels supplying the abdomen, liver and intestine.
“Another two to three months without treatment and it would have been too late.”
The patient, who was not named by medics, had an aggressive form of cancer diagnosed. The cancer typically has very few symptoms until it is in an advanced stage.
The woman's symptoms began a year ago, and included a loss of appetite and diarrhoea leading to dramatic weight loss, fatigue and excessive bloating.
The tumour grew and formed an unnatural bulge around her abdomen, making it difficult to sleep or live a normal life.
A specialist detected the tumour and a subsequent biopsy confirmed a pancreatic adenocarcinoma.
The cancer originated in the ducts of the pancreas, a digestive organ that dissolves fats, starches and sugars, and creates essential hormones.
Surgeons performed a complex seven hour procedure to remove part of her pancreas through a large incision in her stomach while reconstructing the surrounding blood vessels.
“The size did pose a challenge and we had to alter our usual technique of resection to preserve the main vessels that supply the gut. We then removed the cancer completely and reconstructed the vessels around the pancreas,” said Dr Ahmed.
Typically, most cancerous tumours are small with lesions measuring just a few centimetres in diameter.
This case was particularly unusual due to the size and weight of the growth removed.
Although 3.5kg is unusually large for a tumour, it is some way off the record operated on by doctors.
In 1991, a 137.4kg ovarian growth was removed from a woman at the Stanford University Hospital in California.
The woman, who had her growth removed in Abu Dhabi, now faces months of chemotherapy and check-ups with an oncologist to monitor her health and ensure the cancer has not spread.
After seven months living with the unusual growth, she had almost given up hope of recovery as the tumour slowly began to dominate her day-to-day life.
“My life had changed completely,” she said.
“I could not sleep and felt uncomfortable all the time. It was debilitating.
“After visiting so many hospitals with no solution, I had almost given up.”