A British cancer patient can breathe a sigh of relief – literally – after doctors discovered that a suspicious mass in his lung that was thought to be a tumor was actually a small toy that the man had inhaled four decades prior.
The 47-year-old patient, who hails from Preston, England, sought medical attention after developing a chronic cough that saw him produce yellow mucus and a general feeling of malaise, The Guardian reported.
Doctors who examined the man took an x-ray of his lungs and spotted a mass. When coupled with the fact that he had just recovered from pneumonia and that he was a long-term smoker, it seemed clear that lung cancer was the culprit.
However, doctors held off on an official diagnosis pending the results of a bronchoscopy, which saw them stick a thin viewing instrument into his lung to take a closer look at the mass. That’s when they realized that the so-called tumor was actually a “long-lost Playmobil traffic cone” that the patient received on his seventh birthday and promptly lost.
Doctors were able to remove the teensy cone, which measures about 0.4 inches in length, by using biopsy forceps.
“Following the procedure, the patient reported that he regularly played with and even swallowed pieces of Playmobil during his childhood,” doctors wrote in the case file. “He recalled being given this Playmobil set for his seventh birthday and believes he aspirated the toy traffic cone soon after.”
It’s no secret that children love to stick things up their nose that don’t belong there, but doctors were perplexed to come across “a case in which the onset of symptoms occurs so long after initial aspiration,” which they described as “unheard of.”
“This may be because the aspiration occurred at such a young age that the patient’s airway was able to remodel and adapt to the presence of this foreign body,” they said.
The doctors noted – in true dry, British fashion – that the symptoms all but cleared up after they found the man’s treasured toy “in the very last place he would look.”