Santlal Pal, a 31-year-old shopkeeper from the state of Uttar Pradesh in India, had spent the last few months dealing with a tumor in his skull that grew to the point that it might have been bigger than his own head. Now that the growth has been removed, it is believed that Pal might have had the world’s largest brain tumor, with dimensions of eight-by-12-by-12 inches and a weight of close to four pounds.
On February 14, Pal underwent surgery at the Nair Hospital in Mumbai, as doctors were able to successfully remove the growth in an operation that lasted six hours. According to the Indian Express, Pal received 11 bottles of blood, as the surgery was of such an intensive nature that patients are at danger of losing massive amounts of blood during the procedure. He then spent the next three days in the intensive care unit, with BBC News noting that he had to be connected to a ventilator while he recovered.
Commenting on how his team removed the brain tumor, Dr. Trimurti Nadkarni, head of Nair Hospital’s neurosurgery department, told the Indian Express that the growth “sat like a head on top of another head,” which required some intricate procedures as it was being removed.
“We had to cut through the bone. The sheer size of the tumor was a challenge and we had to ensure blood pressure was maintained while surgery was on.”
In a separate interview with the Hindu, Nadkarni said that the growth turned out to be “much bigger than [Pal’s] own head” and possibly the world’s largest brain tumor.
“We have checked all the available medical texts. We have not found any tumor as big as this.”
The Indian Express wrote that Santlal Pal first noticed the tumor about nine months ago when he spotted what looked to be a bump on the back of his head. His brother, Akhilesh Pal, told the publication that the mass grew quickly, becoming more than an inch larger in just a month’s time. While chemotherapy helped the tumor briefly decrease in size, it began growing again, and attempts to shrink the tumor through the Hindu medicinal regimen of Ayurveda did not work either.
After visiting three hospitals in the nine months since the bump first appeared, Pal underwent a series of tests at Nair Hospital on February 1. He was advised by doctors that the growth had become so large because the blood vessels in his brain had made their way into the tumor, thereby nourishing its cells with fresh blood. Furthermore, the mass was also observed to have grown outside Pal’s skull bone at the time of the tests.
“He would feel a heaviness in his head which ached constantly, and his vision was blurred,” explained Akhilesh Pal.
With Santlal Pal suffering from the aforementioned vision problems and headaches, and with the tumor’s constant growth putting him in a life-threatening situation, he underwent the operation almost two weeks after first visiting Nair Hospital. According to the Hindu, the procedure ultimately cost Pal his eyesight, though doctors believe there’s a chance he may eventually be able to see again.
At the moment, it has yet to be officially confirmed that the mass removed from Santlal Pal’s head is indeed the world’s largest brain tumor. The operation has not yet been detailed in medical literature, though the Indian Express pointed out that there were two similar cases in India this century where doctors also ended up removing large growths from patients’ brains. These include a 2002 case, which involved a three-pound tumor being removed in KEM Hospital in Mumbai, and another in 2008, where a female patient had a 2.2-pound growth removed by doctors at New Delhi’s Sir Gangaram Hospital.