Man Thinks He Has Lung Cancer, Doctors Find It Is Just a Plastic Toy He Swallowed 40 Years Ago

Chest Ribs Diagnosis Human Xray Lungs Body

One British man is having a pretty good day after finding out his lung cancer diagnosis was all just a hilarious fluke.

It all started with a couple of weird symptoms. The 47-year-old man from Preston, England was dealing with a lot of respiratory problems in the past year: uncontrollable coughing, excess mucus production, and trouble breathing. After a year of not getting any relief, the man had an x-ray, which showed that he had a black mass in his lungs. The doctors assumed it was cancer.


Lung cancer is one of the most popular cancers globally and while a lot of people think the cancer is directly related to smoking tobacco, there could be many culprits behind its formation. In fact, the Surgeon General has warned that radon exposure is actually the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today.

But with the case of this man, the mass in his lungs wasn’t actually cancer after all. It was a plastic toy he swallowed about 40 years ago.

To confirm the cancer diagnosis, the doctors performed a bronchoscopy test. This is an easy procedure that uses a flexible instrument called a bronchoscope to look inside a person’s airways; the tube is entered through the nose or the mouth and there is both a camera and a light attached at the end. To the doctor’s surprise, however, the black mass was a plastic cone from a Playmobil set determined to be from the 1980s.

The doctors removed the cone during the same operation and within months the man’s symptoms completely subsided.

Interestingly enough, the man wasn’t at all surprised when the doctors told him the cause of his problem. The man explained to Newsweek that he remembers regularly swallowing Playmobil toys when he was younger without having a problem. He actually distinctively remembers getting this exact Playmobil set for his seventh birthday and remembers swallowing the toy almost immediately after. 

Doctors believe that for the past 40 years, the toy was able to nestle itself into the man’s lungs. Considering that the man never had any unusual symptoms until about a year ago, the doctors say that most likely his young lungs were able to adapt to the foreign toy and absorbed it into the lungs mucous lining without a problem.

The man is quite lucky that his doctors were able to do some preventative tests to figure out if their diagnosis was correct. While an estimated 98,000 Americans die each year due to preventable medical errors, this man was able to dodge potentially harmful chemo medication to treat a mass that turned out not to be cancerous.

While it’s normal for children to swallow toys, the doctors are so surprised this little traffic cone hasn’t caused a problem until now. In the report, the doctors write just how shocked they were that the man was able to comfortably live for so long:

“[This is] A case in which the onset of symptoms occurs so long after initial aspiration is unheard of.”

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