A Canadian woman said she was “preparing to die” when she was told that she had a liver tumor that was only shocked when it turned out to be a rare parasite that she had to treat for the rest of her life.
For years, Cassidy Armstrong, 36, from Edmonton, Alberta, had a painful pain on her right, but neither x-rays nor blood tests revealed anything unusual.
Then, last year, her health started to deteriorate rapidly. Cassidy dropped 25 pounds, could not eat without digestive problems and sleeping became virtually impossible.
After an ultrasound scan revealed a grapefruit-like mass in her abdomen, she was diagnosed with liver cancer and was scheduled for surgery at the end of November, reported TODAY.
But after doctors had removed the growth and sent it for testing, they discovered that Armstrong had no cancer at all.
She actually had a rare parasitic disease caused by a tapeworm that had probably grown in her for at least 10 years.
Cassidy Armstrong, 36, from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, had pain on her right for years, but she usually ignored it. Pictured: Armstrong in the hospital
At the end of 2019 she underwent an ultrasound scan, which revealed a grapefruit-shaped tumor and doctors diagnosed her with fibrolamellar carcinoma, a rare liver cancer. Shown: a scan that shows where the parasitic growth was in relation to her liver
Armstrong recalled her disbelief that she was told that she had fibrolamellar carcinoma, a rare liver cancer that primarily affects people younger than 40 – and an intuitive feeling that the diagnosis was incorrect.
‘I was shocked. I wasn’t feeling well, but there was something in the back of my mind that said, “Really?” She said TODAY.
‘I believed [the doctors] because they do their best based on [the evidence]. I was getting ready for the worst, getting ready to die. ”
Many patients with fibrolamellar carcinoma have no early signs and, when symptoms appear, they are non-specific, such as abdominal pain and weight loss.
It affects around one in five million people in the general population, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders.
Doctors advised Armstrong not to take a biopsy for fear that the cancer would spread and she was operated on November 27.
Because the growth was so great and had caused so much damage, doctors had to remove 65 percent of her liver and all her gallbladder.
Tests a few days later showed that the grapefruit-like mass was not a tumor at all, but a rare parasite.
Armstrong was operated on in November 2019, but after the mass was sent to a laboratory for testing, it was discovered that it was a rare parasite. Pictured: walking with Armstrong
Armstrong told TODAY that the parasite diagnosis was an even bigger shock than learning – it turned out to be wrong – that she had cancer.
“I didn’t know what to think.” I asked them: “Is this okay?” and they said, “It’s much better than what we thought you had,” she said.
Dr. Stan Houston, professor of medicine at the University of Alberta, says that since 2013, Armstrong is one of about 15 patients in Alberta who have alveolar echinococcosis, a rare parasitic disease caused by tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis.
Tapeworm cells proliferate in the liver and cause life-threatening tumors, according to the Radiological Society of North America.
The growths can then spread to other organs and can cause liver failure or even death without treatment.
People contract the disease by eating products that are contaminated with tapeworm animals, stroking infected dogs, or not washing their hands, Dr. said. Houston TODAY.
Tapeworm is most common in wild animals in the area from Eastern Montana to central Ohio, with cases of transmission from animal to human being low.
Because the tumors multiply and spread like cancer, doctors can confuse them with the disease.
‘No one [here] has ever seen this before. No one is familiar with it, “Dr. said. Houston TODAY.
“So if you see a nasty shadow on imaging, ultrasound or MRI, all their experience would suggest that it must be cancer.”
Armstrong was diagnosed with alveolar echinococcosis, a rare parasitic disease caused by the tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis. Shown: a scan that shows Armstrong’s growth
She will have to use anti-parasitic drugs for the rest of her life, because doctors cannot guarantee that they have removed all cells from the parasite. Pictured: Armstrong in the hospital
Armstrong does not know how she caught the tapeworm, but believes she might have picked up the parasite while working on a farm, repairing equipment.
Dr. Houston believes the parasite grew on her liver somewhere between 10 and 15 years.
Because Armstrong’s medical team is not sure if they have removed all cells from the parasite, she may have to use anti-parasitic drugs for the rest of her life.
Dr. Houston also told TODAY that she should have a blood test every month and a CT scan every six months.
Armstrong says she has always had jobs that require a lot of physical work, such as a motorcycle mechanic and a carpenter, that she can no longer do because of her illness.
“It’s just scary to find out:” Okay, what’s next? What should I do now? ‘She said.