May 29, 2013, 6:18 pm Laura Sparkes Today Tonight
Sufferers of teratoma – a foetus-like tumour – often display symptoms of mental psychosis, and misdiagnosed with swelling of the brain.
Amanda Murphy spent two months in a hospital mental ward originally diagnosed with encephalitis, swelling of the brain. Strapped to her bed, she was violent one moment and unresponsive the next.
Medical specialists were mystified by her rapid descent into mental psychosis.
It took seven psychiatrists and three different hospitals to make a breakthrough. They learnt that her mental psychosis had nothing to do with her brain, but as a result of a teratoma wrapped around her right ovary.
Teratoma is a Greek word for ‘monster’.
Director of Neurology at Adelaide’s Lyell McEwin Hospital, Dr Tim Kleinig says teratoma is a benign mix of tissues – such as muscle, skin or hair – joined together randomly.
He explains that the presence of the teratoma triggers the body to attack it, but the brain matter in the tumour confuses the immune system.
“As collateral damage, the brain cells are attacked by the immune system. It gets confused between the abnormal growth and the normal brain tissue, so it attacks them both at the same time,” he said.
The link between teratomas and encephalitis was only discovered five years ago, before that, patients were treated purely for mental psychosis.
Ms Murphy is in recovery, and warns others suffering random mental health problems to get themselves checked for teratomas.
This reporter is on Twitter at @LauraSparkes7