Orbital Tumors and ‘Monstrous’ Teratoma with Eyes

A teratoma is a rare congenital tumor that can have specialized tissues, including hair, teeth, and structures from organs like the eye. Survival rates are high, but they frequently require surgical removal even when benign.

When you hear the words “tumor and “eye,” your first thoughts may go to statistics on the thousands of new eye and orbit-related cancers diagnosed each year or the hundreds of eye cancer deaths annually.

But what may be less familiar is a “monstrous tumor,” known as teratoma, that can have tissues like hair and teeth or even their own eyes. This may seem like a nightmare scenario reserved for a horror movie, but it’s a real but very rare medical issue.

This article will explain more about the specific types of teratoma that can contain eyes, whether they can be cancerous, and what treatment options may be available. We’ll also explain more about the types of tumors you can develop in your eyes, and what options exist for diagnosing and treating those issues.

A teratoma tumor can include many types of tissues and even fully formed organs. Teratoma form during fetal development and may be observed at birth or discovered later in life.

Teratoma can grow teeth, hair, and a variety of organs. That’s because they’re made up of germ cells that can turn into any type of specialized cell in your body.

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They may also contain teeth and hair from a reabsorbed embryo. This is sometimes found in pediatric patients and is called fetus in fetu (fetus within a fetus).

Fetus in fetu is only reported in approximately 1 in 500,000 live births. These teratoma can have the shape of a malformed fetus, and one common theory is that it’s the remains of a twin that was unable to survive in the womb and was encompassed by the surviving baby’s body.

They’re usually found in the retroperitoneum, but may appear in the:

  • abdominal cavity
  • cranial cavity
  • sacrum
  • oral cavity
  • kidneys

There’s still more research needed to understand why this medical phenomenon occurs, but the mass will typically be surgically removed. That’s because it’s still a living tissue and will continue to gain nutrients from the host and keep growing.

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