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They Thought It Was a Brain Tumor — But It Was a Worm

TUESDAY, June 11, 2019 (HealthDay News) — In January 2018, Rachel Palma started experiencing mysterious symptoms like hallucinations and spasms in her right hand. Some days she was fine. But her symptoms got worse.

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“I was no longer able to process the fact that a key opens the door, the now 42-year-old Palma told CNN.

“The computer screen looked completely different — it was almost foreign,” she continued. “What I was perceiving was different and so how I was responding was different — if someone was asking for a pen, I would give them, for example, a key.”

Ten trips to the emergency room didn’t improve her condition. The first indication was it might be a brain bleed, but it wasn’t so they sent her home.

When Palma had a brain scan, doctors spotted a small lesion and decided to do a biopsy.

“I was told that it was most likely a malignant tumor which would require radiation and chemo even after the surgery,” Palma, who is from Middletown, N.Y., said.

That’s when a surgical team took over, led by Dr. Jonathan Rasouli, chief resident of neurosurgery at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

They found quite a surprise.

What they found looked like a quail egg, Rasouli told CNN. “Wait a second, this is clearly not a brain tumor,” he said at the time.

When he removed the lesion and looked at it under the microscope, what he found was a baby tapeworm. About 1,000 people a year are hospitalized for this each year in the U.S., according to the CDC.

“There’s absolutely no explanation as to how I contracted it,” Palma said. Today, she’s feeling fine and grateful that the problem was solved. If it hadn’t been removed the tapeworm it might have caused a stroke or even death.

“This is not something that is cause for widespread panic,” Palma said. “What happened to me is extremely rare — it’s not the norm — for someone who has not been overseas to contract this.”

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