Santlal Pal before and after he had his huge tumor removed. Credit: Nair Hospital.

Santlal Pal before and after he had his huge tumor removed. Credit: Nair Hospital.

Over several years, Santlal Pal has seen his head swell to dazzling proportions as a tumor emerged from his skull and seemed to never stop growing. Now, after a grueling six-hour surgery performed on Valentine’s Day, doctors have removed the man’s tumor. Measuring 8-by-12-by-12 inches and weighing nearly four pounds (1.8 kg), this might very well have been the largest brain tumor in the world.

Prior to having his terrifying tumor removed, the 31-year-old patient had been told his condition was inoperable by three different hospitals. Luckily, Dr. Trimurti Nadkarni, a neurosurgeon at Nair Hospital in Mumbai, India, and his team were up to the task.

When Nadkarni first measured Pal’s tumor, he was simply amazed. It was like the tumor “sat like a head on top of another head,” Nadkarni recalled.

“We have checked all the available medical texts,” Nadkarni told The Hindu. “We have not found any tumor as big as this.”

Nadkarni found that 90 percent of the patient’s tumor was located between his skull and scalp. Barely 10 percent of the tumor grew within the skull but that was enough to damage Pal’s vision from all the pressure on his brain. If left unchecked for longer, Pal would have surely experienced worse troubles like paralysis and neurological damage. Doctors now hope that Pal will slowly regain his vision.

A primary brain tumor is one that begins in the brain tissue. Tumor cells may travel short distances within the brain, but generally won’t travel outside of the brain itself. Primary brain tumors can be either malignant (contain cancer cells) or benign (not containing cancer cells).

Santlal Pal's scans of his skull, showing the blood vessels that surround the tumor. Credit: Nair Hospital.

Scans of Santlal Pal’s, showing the blood vessels that surround the tumor. Credit: Nair Hospital.

To remove the tumor, doctors had to cut open the skull to gain access to the huge bulb. The procedure proved very challenging since blood pressure had to be maintained throughout the surgery.

Pal is still in the hospital in the intensive care unit and his condition is currently stable. Doctors are still waiting for test results to see whether the tumor was cancerous or not. This matters a great deal since the patient’s recovery depends on the nature of the tumor. For instance, if it was indeed cancerous, then further treatment is required such as radiation and chemotherapy.

Nair Hospital treats about 500 brain tumors per year, half of which are in advanced stages.

Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!

Like us on Facebook