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Woman who couldn’t lose weight diagnosed with a hidden adrenal tumor

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  • Naomi Benton, 34, baffled doctors for more than a decade
  • She continued to pile on the pounds despite following an 800 calorie-a-day diet and undergoing gastric bypass surgery in 2008
  • Tests finally revealed an orange-sized tumour on her adrenal gland
  • After having it removed she now only weighs 14st, but has 4st of excess skin

By ANNA HODGEKISS

A woman who weighed 32 stone has told how her excessive weight was due to a hidden tumour.

Naomi Benton baffled doctors for over a decade as she continued to pile on the pounds despite following an 800 calorie-a-day diet and undergoing gastric bypass surgery.

The 34-year-old from Haddington, East Lothian, pleaded with doctors for help after she ballooned from a healthy 10 stone at age 20 to more than 32 stone.

Naomi Benton baffled doctors for over a decade as she continued to pile on the pounds despite following an 800 calorie-a-day diet and undergoing gastric bypass surgeryNaomi Benton baffled doctors for over a decade as she continued to pile on the pounds despite following an 800 calorie-a-day diet and undergoing gastric bypass surgery

The mother-of-two failed to drop any weight after her bypass surgery in 2008 and medical staff assumed her huge frame was due to secret snacking.

But when she was hospitalised after a bad fall the following year and her weight continued to balloon, she underwent tests which revealed the hidden deadly mass.

Further blood tests showed she was suffering from Cushing’s syndrome – a collection of symptoms that develop in the body due to high levels of a hormone called cortisol.

The tumour, which had developed on her adrenal gland located on top of the kidneys, had grown to the size of an orange and Ms Benton underwent an eight-hour emergency operation.

Ms Benton, who now weighs 14 stone, needs plastic surgery to remove four stone of excess skin.

She said: ‘I was always fit and healthy but when I hit 20 I started to dramatically put on weight.

The 34-year-old from Haddington, East Lothian, pleaded with doctors for help after she ballooned from a healthy 10 stone (pictured) at age 20 to over 32 stone
The 34-year-old from Haddington, East Lothian, pleaded with doctors for help after she ballooned from a healthy 10 stone (pictured) at age 20 to over 32 stone

When she was hospitalised after a bad fall and her weight continued to balloon, she underwent tests which revealed a tumour on her adrenal gland. She is pictured in hospital after having the tumour removedWhen she was hospitalised after a bad fall and her weight continued to balloon, she underwent tests which revealed a tumour on her adrenal gland. She is pictured in hospital after having the tumour removed

‘Just after my first pregnancy I managed to put on over five stone despite not changing my diet and just couldn’t drop the weight.

‘I went to the doctors numerous times about the dramatic gain but no-one believed that my weight wasn’t just down to a very unhealthy diet.

‘It was so frustrating, no-one was listening to me when I told them I wasn’t stuffing my face.

‘I was sent to see a dietitian who helped monitor my 800-calorie-a-day diet. Every day I was weak and tired, but still hadn’t lost any weight.

Naomi Benton
Naomi Benton

Ms Benton lost weight quickly after her tumour was removed and now weighs 14 stone. She needs plastic surgery to remove four stone of excess skin (left). She is pictured (right) before her weight loss

‘Even my friends and family were convinced I was eating in secret and complete strangers would tell me I needed to go on a diet.

‘Finally I signed up for a gastric bypass but after the op still didn’t lose anywhere near the kind of weight that was expected.

‘The breakthrough came after I was laid up in hospital for eight months after breaking both arms and legs in a nasty fall.

‘A junior doctor stopped by and asked if he could take run some new tests which finally showed what was wrong.

Ms Benton said: 'Now I'm just glad the tumour was discovered, as I'd hate to think what would have happened if it had gone on for longer'Ms Benton said: ‘Now I’m just glad the tumour was discovered, as I’d hate to think what would have happened if it had gone on for longer’

‘The tests revealed I had Cushing’s syndrome and a large tumour on my right side.’

Just weeks after having emergency surgery, the weight began to fall off her.

Ms Benton said: ‘Now I’m just glad it was discovered, as I’d hate to think what would have happened if it had gone on for longer.’

She has now shrunk down to a dress size 16 and but hopes to reach a size 12 and weigh 10 stone.

She added: ‘I’m a work in progress and I’m taking it in baby steps. I can’t wait to look and feel like my old self again.’

WHAT IS CUSHING’S SYNDROME?

Cushing’s syndrome is a collection of symptoms that develop due to very high levels of a hormone called cortisol.

The symptoms include weight gain, thinning skin, stretch marks and decreased interested in sex.

The condition often develops as a side effect of treatments for inflammation and autoimmune conditions.

It can also develop as a result of a tumour inside one of the body’s glands.

The main treatment is to stop taking the medication that is causing it or to remove the tumour.

If these options are not available, medication can be used to counter the effects of high cortisol levels.

If left untreated, it can cause high blood pressure which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

It affects about one in 50,000 people.

Source: NHS Choices

From: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2510680/32st-woman-lose-weight-diagnosed-hidden-TUMOUR.html

Leslie, Undiagnosed Bio

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A Golden Oldie

I have no diagnosis but have a number of questions.  I think for now I would like to read others experiences.

Update September 5, 2011

Hi,

I am wondering if the issues I am currently having may be related to Cushing’s.  So I am actually looking for more information, before I ask my doctor about testing.  I have always been in the short and fat catagory physically, however in the last few years I have gained a rediculous amount of weight all in my middle.  Recently my blood pressure has gone from running very low 110/70 on a high day to 152/108.  I am waiting for more test results, blood sugar, etc.    In the past I had a horrible reaction to a cortisone shot in my knee that resulted in stretch marks that appeared overnight and horrible itching and agitation and am wondering it this was a symptom related to cortisol levels in my system already being to high.

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Wendy, Undiagnosed Bio

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A Golden Oldie

Hi My name is WENDY from New Zealand …I am 57 yrs young…I am a nurse…..it was once suggested by mail to my GP that I may have episodae cushings…and that it would be intersesting to take 24 urine specs for cortisol levels over a period of time….this was never done..I only became aware of these when I asked for a copy of all my notes as I was moving to Australia…..

My symptoms I believed robbed me of my former self…..

I stopped menstruating at 45yrs old….my weight would fluctuate wildly..sometimes by 10 to 15 pound… at one point wighing in at 100 kgs……and for no apparent reason losing weight as much as 4 -5 kgs……my happy out going approach to life would become sad.lifeless with a blunted facial affect…..heat intolerance…low energy…poor sleep…high blood pressure.

I have had the unusual presentation of  supraclavicle pads…..of no suspicious origin…

I have always managed to work but sadly these changes took their toll on my personal life….I remain optimistic.with the support of loving family and friends…..cushie helper I truly feel that my condition occurs in cycles…….

I await your thoughts….sincerely Wendy

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Jessica, Undiagnosed Bio

1 Comment

First of all – I have to excuse my language – I’m Swedish, and will not always be able to find the right words.

After several years of increasing symtoms some of which worsened severely a couple of months ago, I finally found “Cushings disease” and recognised most of the symtoms. I’ve suffered from severe depression and thereafter adrenal burnout, and have explained most of my problems from this point of view. It’s “only” stress related, I’ve thought to myself.

I’ve always been slender, but gained weight using antidepressives. After ending SSRI I managed to loose weight again (I love running, and exercised a lot!) But my face stayed round and my belly stayed big. (Today BMI 21 and look 7 months pregnant)

I’m very easily bruised since several years.

I wake up several times each night and it’s often very hard for my to fall asleep again.

I get easily exhausted, mentally and physically. I’ve got lowered simultan capacity, am sensitive to impressions (sounds and vision)

My skin is very dry and thin and looks like paper on the back of my hands and on my lower legs.

My cheeks are always red, as well as the front of my neck.

I’ve always had extremely low blood pressure, and now it was high (in the lower region)

Inflammations won’t heal. I’ve had stressfractures in my left foot twice the last couple of years.

My legs always hurt.

The last two months my strength has decreased a lot!

I’m always thirsty and pee a lot.

I live extremely healthy (Exercise, eat good, hardly any sugar, exercise bodyscan/meditation, minimum of alcohol – my day ends extremely early) – all in order to manage my part time job, and my two children who are in great need of me.

And now we’ve found that my cortisol is high (urine and blood), ACTH is high and I’ve been a patient for a couple of days for several bloodtests, another urinetest and dexamethasone-test. Tomorrow I’m scheduled for an MRI, and next week I’ll see a doctor to get the results.

It seems that I’ve got Cushings – and my first feeling was a sense of relief. All this suffering all these years, and I’ve always thought that I wasn’t trying hard enough. And the explanation was that something was growing in my head that they would be able to cut away. And the tumour is almost always benign.

But having read some stories on the internet I’m suddenly scared. I realize that you are in deeper need of writing if you don’t get well, but still I’m suddenly very scared.

If anyone out there is a “success” (when it comes to getting well again) please respond. I desperately need hope.

Jessica

Magdalena, Food-Dependent Cushing’s Bio

4 Comments

Magdalena is from Windsor, Ontario (Originally Poland). She has Food-Dependent / GIP-Dependent Cushing’s Syndrome. This means that genetically, she has cells on her adrenals that are only supposed to be in her intestines. They respond to a polypeptide hormone (GIP) that is produced in response to food. So when she eats, the hormone triggers her adrenal glands and they produce cortisol. It is an ectopic response that is ACTH-independent.

A Golden Oldie last updated 01/22/2008.

~~~

Hi, I am 22 years old now, at diagnsis. I have a rare form of cushing’s syndrome called food-dependant cushing’s syndrome. Sometimes it is referred to as gip-dependant cushing’s syndrome. This means that genetically, I have cells on my adrenals that are only supposed to be in my intestines. They respond to a polypeptide hormone (GIP) that is produced in response to food. So I eat, the hormone triggers my adrenal glands and they produce cortisol. It is an ectopic response that is acth-independant.

I am writing this bio because it was very hard to find this disease, and it was like nothing else, even normal cushing’s fit rather loosely.

I began having problems at age 12, but the disease did not “blow up” till I was 19. When i was 12, I started having stomach pains. First, the doctors said it was apendicitis, then my period, then lactose intolerance. This was on and off, and I kept eliminating foods that I thought i might be allergic too.

When I was 15, the problem intensified. I lost my period and my stomach aches grew worse; I noticed that my stomach was quite swollen after a normal meal, and everyone elses was not. I assumed that it was my fault and I should eat healthier.

Unfortunately, the stomache aches grew worse till my stomach swelled even below my breastbone and I could barely breathe. I started eating very little and very thought out proportions of food, often feeling that I was doing this to myself and then feeling that this couldn’t be normal.

At 17, I started getting really annoyed that my face was so swollen all the time and my skin so bad; I thought i was just ugly. I was quite thin at 5’5″ and 105lbs, but with a very swollen face and stomache. This was getting out of control, the pain was worse, and I was getting thinner. My yelled at me in class because I wasn’t jumping high enough and I told her it hurt cuz of my stomach, she told me I was too thin and that I probably had an eating disorder.

I was in so much pain, I would have gone to a doctor for a monkey growing out of my head. I went to the eating disorder doctor, I told her my stomach hurt. She told me I had an eating disorder (no kidding.) I was put into a group where they would feed me. Over the next two years, I was put on many antidepressants, fed weight gainers, but the pain grew worse and I grew thinner.

Eventually, they put me in the hospital where the problem grew much worse. I couldn’t even lay down because the food would come back up to my throat and I started having a problem with constipation. Nausea became a problem; thank God I only threw up once in my life, when I was five and I had the flu. I have never had a high temperature since, or thrown up since. This should have been a sign that something was wrong with my immune system, but no one listened. For some reason, my cholesterol was very high and I had a fatty liver. Needless to say, there was no improvement and I signed myself out after 6 weeks.

I knew there was something wrong. I was 19 and the pain was worse. I left my eating disorder doctor with the same complaint that I had come with. So she said that I had IBS. I knew that couldn’t be it, because it never went away, it only got worse, and it had nothing to do with stress or the type of food I ate. To the day of my diagnosis, I thought IBS was a bullshit diagnosis- we don’t know what’s wrong yet…

At 19 something odd happened, i started gaining weight very fast and my ankles and knees started hurting. I was pushing through the pain to eat because life was hard, but I started gaining weight too fast. I went off to a musical theatre conservatory in Feb 04 and disaster struck. I blew up like a balloon, my face looked awful and my stomach would hurt to the point I would become paralyzed. It hurt to breath and I could barely walk upright sometimes. I came home and we went through the diagnosises; pancreatitis, ibs, psychosis, eating disorder, lupus, diabetes, thyroid and celiac disease.

It looked like celiac disease so I eliminated bread, but little changed. It was winter and I could barely shower and comb my hair because I had so little energy. The weight would come on so fast that my skin hurt to touch, and my eyes were swollen shut. I also thought i was psycho, but a little voice said I couldn’t be.

The next october the same cycle occurred, really quick weight gain, fatigue, sweats, and blurry vision. Independant university study was hard, but I got through it. That May and everything started going down, I could exercise again. However, the fatigue, nausea, stomach pain and occasional flareups were a rollercoaster. I know now that these are signs of adrenal insufficiency because my acth was still suppressed. The flareups made me feel crazy, that i was doing this to myself by eating.

The third time this cycle happened was much more painful. It was sept. 06 and I was going to university again. The bachelor of design was tough and I had to focus so much on staying healthy. Going to the gym everyday to sweat so that my swelling would go down. Watching what I ate, doing an IBS diet. I realized I couldn’t digest fruit or vegetables. I kept going to endocrinologist because I had no period and my dhea was high (which worried my gynecologist), but they all said it was nothing. My stomach aches occurred after eating, and even drinking water. The doctor at my school told me that I should know how to stop eating and drinking (He was a really fat, sweaty guy too). I had constipation for 10 days straight and laxatives barely worked. I had such swollen lymph nodes that I tasted raw blood in my throat and could barely swallow. Needless to say, I came home.

I ended up in the hospital at Christmas. The ER doctor and gastroenterologist both said there must be a endo problem because I had been constipated for 10 days, colonoscopy laxatives weren;t working, and my intestines and bladder was so full they couldn’t see on the Ct scan.

I finally went to an endocrinologist in Toronto, Dr. Rosario Briones-Urbina. I suggested Cushing’s, she said I was too skinny. Though I had just gone from 110lbs to 130lbs in two weeks. She agreed to test me in Jan. The test came out 550 out of a max of 250. She waited three months to do the dexamethasone and it was too late, it was march and my cortisol had gone to 90 (the min. was 60). She said she had never seen such a quick cycle.

I wanted to show her just how fast the cycle was; I took a UFC one day that came out 90, the next day I had a party, ate just like everyone else, but got a paralyzing stomach ache and sweats. I did a UFC the next day and it came out 350 (max 250). She was shocked. She said my symptoms fit an extremely rare form called food-dependant cushing’s. Unfortunately, the testing is not standard and I am waiting for it. After it is done, I will have a bilateral adrenalectomy.

If you got this far in my story, thank you for baring with me. I haven’t found a story like mine and wanted to share it, cuz I spent so much time looking. Over two years, I saw 24 specialists. I don;t know how I got through it, I must of been quite a witch with a B. However, I kept pushing. I studied at home independantly to keep me going and have now been accepted to medical school.

The most important advice i have to give is this:

    1. GO TO A TEACHING/RESEARCH HOSPITAL!!!
    2. If you have kids, think twice before eating disorder treatment. I went into the program with pain and a method of coping. I came out with an eating disorder psyche, bad experiences, and a truckload of pills that were making me crazy.
    3. IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE FOOD DEPENDANT CUSHINGS, HERE IS HOW I COPE;
      • the cortisol goes up with too much of any protein, fat or carbs. I eat small turkey/cheese sandwiches at every meal (enough to be full, but well balanced).
      • I use stevia instead of sugar because its natural (health food isle.)
      • alcohol really hurts now, so only a little wine occassionally.
      • lots of yogurts.
      • every couple days a mixture of senna laxative and stool softener (not too often)
    4. Remember the squeekiest wheel gets the grease.

Debra LF (DebraLF), Undiagnosed Bio

2 Comments

Hello, I  am in search of opinions please.

I present with most of the outward physical characteristics: age 57 “weight gain (obese which began about 1991 with a sudden 60 lb increase in 2 months and no explanation, physician had wanted me to go to a Mayo clinic for eval but at the time I could not spare time nor expense…and more recently continuring weight gain, easy bruising, (menses stopped at age 50, but don’t recollect too many probs except migraines), ravenous appetite, occasional trouble sleeping, depression or mood swings, anxiety, fatigue and altered mentation which is trouble concentrating or decreased memory and now diagnosed ADHD.

1-3. Physical abnormalities include new onset obesity, mine is more recent weight gain, primarily in the abdominal,  buffalo hump which presented suddenly a few summers ago but has been brushed off by doctors…, rounding and reddening of the face which began about ten years ago, thin skin, decreased muscle strength, high blood pressure, and excess hair growth on face, have to shave every day, some times twice, have 5 o’clock shadow, but I have already been to a local endocrinologist in Billings, Montana, there are only a couple in this sparsely populated area, and none of the lab tests showed anything particularly abnormal…open to suggestions, thanks so much…

Erin, Undiagnosed Bio

1 Comment

Hi. My name is Erin and I’m 28 years old. The first time I ever heard of Cushing’s was a couple weeks ago while doing a search for hormonal imbalance. I’ll explain why later. I am currently doing a 24 hour urine cortisol test, and thought that in between peeing in the large container, I’d share what little story I have.ufc

I have always been a normal weight and healthy, well, up until about 5 years ago. I mean, obesity was NEVER a word that had to be used to describe my weight. I’m 5’8″ and lingered around 140 lbs my entire life. I was quite the drinker, too. I started gaining weight when I was about 22 or 23, and started taking Adderol to get the weight down, and it worked like a charm. (I am currently a recovering alcoholic and have been in recovery for over a year now.)

When I started trying to get sober, I noticed little things, but mainly the weight gain. I have always had larger hips and thighs and a smaller waist, so when I began to look 6 months pregnant, I thought it was odd (and embarrasing). I have bruised very easy every since I was a teenager, but in the past few years the bruises come easier and are quite large. My acne will just not quit, and I started sprouting these thick hairs on my face, chest, and abdomen. My face has ballooned out like a pumpkin, and I don’t hardly recognize myself anymore.

In May 2012 I had a miscarriage at 12 weeks. During the pregnancy I started getting these purple stretch marks all over my thighs and hips, and since I had neve been pregnant before, decided this was normal. Before then I was having trouble getting pregnant, but just chalked it up to bad timing. After the miscarriage, I noticed my menstrual cycles were different. They had shortened from 26-27 days to 22 days, and just didn’t seem right. I started seeing my gynecologist every month, but kept getting dismissed because it hadn’t been a full year since the loss, and my hormones were probably still imbalanced. I did get them to test for PCOS, and everything came back normal, including an ultrasound, which just made me seem crazy.  I switched gyns and eventually had a hormonal blood test, which revealed very low estrogen and progesterone, and I was referred to a fertility specialist. Another blood test there revealed my ovaries are not responding very well and not secreating enough of the AMH hormone.

About a month and a half ago I decided to battle the bulge, and joined a gym and changed my diet. After 2 weeks of cardio and strenth training almost every day, I hadn’t lost a pound. Then at week 3, I finally noticed a 2 pound weight loss, but that’s when the knee pain started. For no reason at all, my knees became VERY sore, swollen, and were bruising from the inside of the joint. I saw an orthopedic who couldn’t find any evidence of injury, gave me a cortisone shot in each knee, and sent me on my way. I should also mention that a week before that I had a cortisone injection in my back for a herniated disc that was causing sciatic nerve pain.

A few days after the last set of injections in my knees, I started feeling very ill and run down. I had also just missed a period for the first time in my reproductive history, and after a negative blood pregnancy test, was told my hormones were too low for my period to start on its own. I thought I was feeling under the weather because of the missed period, so that’s when I started looking up hormonal imbalances online. When I came across the word Cushing’s, I couldn’t stop reading about it. I thought, oh my god, these people are me! They look like me! Thinking back over the years, all of these individual symptoms could be explained away due to stress, inactivity, lifestyle change, etc. But collectively, I started to see the bigger picture.

So, I am currently testing with my PCP. I am selfishly hoping that I get a quick diagnosis, or if it isn’t Cushing’s, that they find some other reason for all of these symptoms. But from what I’ve read this is going to be a long process.

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