Doctors Were Shocked To Find That This Man's "Tumor" Wasn't Actually A Tumor

Photographed by Megan Madden.
Every once in a while, a strange case pops up in medical journals that really makes us think, how could that have possibly happened? Case-in-point: the 47-year-old man who went into a respiratory clinic and was diagnosed with a lung tumor, but when doctors went in to cut the "tumor" out, they found that it wasn't a tumor at all — it was a small, plastic toy traffic cone that the man had inhaled 40 years ago.
The human body is a weird and amazing thing, ya'll.
According to the BBC, the man — who's from the UK and now works as a mailman — would often swallow pieces from a Playmobil play set he got for his seventh birthday. Apparently, he once attempted to swallow the traffic cone but breathed it in instead. What makes this case so mind-boggling is that he should have choked, right? That's usually what happens when something that's not supposed to be there makes its way into your lungs.
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What happened in this case, according to the BMJ medical case study, was that the man was young enough that his body was still developing, and his lung formed around it. For almost 40 years, he didn't even realize that the cone was living in his lungs, until he developed a cough and was referred to a respiratory clinic.
Because he was a long-time smoker, doctors assumed the mass they saw on his x-rays was a tumor, but they were in for a shock in the operating room. It's not unusual, of course, for small children to accidentally inhale toys, but the doctors say that "a case in which the onset of symptoms occurs so long after initial aspiration is unheard of."
Still, the patient is doing much better after they removed the traffic cone and finally got his toy back.
"On a positive note," the doctors wrote, "his symptoms improved markedly and he finally found his long-lost Playmobil traffic cone in the very last place he would look."
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