Yamini Karanam is blaming her brush with death on her “evil twin,” which was inside her head. While this might sound like the opening of a sci-fi movie, Karanam really did have what some scientists believe were the remnants of a twin in her head. Doctors thought this rare phenomenon was a tumor, but it was so much more than that, according to The Washington Post on April 23.
Karanam was diagnosed with a cyst on her pineal gland and as it grew the diagnosis changed to a tumor. As it got bigger the PhD student at Indiana University’s School of Informatics got sicker and sicker. The frustration finally ended when a doctor from a place called the Skullbase Institute in Los Angeles found that Karanam was indeed walking around for all of her 26-years with a twin in her brain. This is called a teratoma, which is a clump of bone with hair and teeth. The teratoma has baffled the best scientific brains in the world for almost a century, reports CBS News today.
Karanam’s teratoma was in her brain, but these tumor-like masses with teeth and bone have been found in other areas of the body. Some scientists believe that a teratoma is basically a twin that never fully formed and absorbed into the body of the other twin.
Doctor Hrayr Shahinan, who did a radical “keyhole” brain surgery on Karanam saved her life. She placed her life in his hands after years of progressively getting worse. She first had a hard time concentrating and reading, then it got to a point were walking was a chore. She stayed in bed for two weeks and did nothing but sleep with massive headaches as this teratoma did a number on everything from her memory to her movements.
Shahinian made a tiny incision in the back of Karanam’s skull then inserted an endoscope into her head using a natural channel in her brain to get to the site of the tumor. That’s when the surprise discovery was made of this bizarre mass that Karanam calls her evil twin today.
This procedure was costly, and she had to fly to L.A. to see this doctor, but the PhD student’s friends raised the $32,437, which was the amount that she needed to have this done. The doctor removed the teratoma and she is doing very well in her recovery today.
Karanam’s story is rare and Shahinian has seen just one other such case of the teratoma in the brain in all his years of removing brain tumors. He has taken out between 7,000 and 8,000 brain tumors and Karanam was only the second person to have this mass of bone, hair and teeth, called an intracranial teratoma.
Teratomas are sometimes attached to newborn babies like a conjoined twin when they are born, again this is a rare occurrence. It was in 2009 when the headlines read that a man gave birth to his twin when a teratoma burst through his stomach. The British man named his twin “little Gav.” In Hong Kong earlier this year a newborn had two partially developed fetuses inside the abdomen.
Check out the slideshow above for the different teratoma tumors removed from folks through the years. Some of these masses are a bit graphic so if you have a queasy stomach, you might want to skip the pictures, although they are fascinating to see if you are a science buff.