British Postal Worker Lives with a Toy in His Lungs for 40 Years

Cancer is the most severe diagnosis a person can get from their doctor. You don’t really want to hear those words. Although many cancer cases are treated successfully, they are still a tremendous source of stress and frustration.

Imagine being worried about the upcoming lung cancer surgery only to wake up and find out that your cancer was, actually, a toy you inhaled as a child. No, this isn’t a scenario from some Hollywood movie, but a true story happened to a British postal worker. We bring you all the details.

What Happened Exactly?

Royal Mail postal worker, Paul Baxter, coughed up mucus and didn’t feel well for more than a year. He saw the doctor who referred him to see a specialist in the Department of Respiratory Medicine at Royal Preston Hospital.

Two months before that, he was diagnosed with right-sided community-acquired pneumonia. Doctors prescribed amoxicillin and clarithromycin, which improved* his symptoms and helped him feel much better.

The 50-year-old patient had a long history of active smoking, but no known asbestos exposure which could also explain problems with lungs.

Considering the fact that Baxter was a smoker and based on the suspicious shadow on his lungs shown in X-ray images, doctors concluded he had a bronchogenic carcinoma.

Bronchogenic carcinoma is a term used to describe lung cancer[1] of all types. Basically, there are two types of bronchogenic carcinoma: small cell lung cancer affecting about 15% of people with lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer which accounts for 80% of all lung cancers.

Doctors decided that Braxton, who was 47 at the time, should undergo a procedure in order for the tumor to be removed as soon as possible.

Dr. Mohammed Munavvar explained they had to act promptly because a bacterial infection could spread to other regions outside the lungs.

No Tumor, After All

Braxton went under surgery hoping his tumor will be removed, but doctors were shocked when they realized there was no tumor at all. The shadow that appeared on the X-ray was, in fact, Playmobile toy cone he received for his 7th birthday back in 1974. He accidentally inhaled it and the toy spent decades in his lungs.

During all this time, the toy cone had been absorbed in the mucosal lining of the air passage or the bronchial that developed around it.

The patient didn’t experience any symptoms for 40 years because the airway managed to adapt and remodel to the presence of the toy.

Another possible explanation[2] to why Braxton didn’t experience symptoms was because the toy was made of harmless plastic. That being said, if the Playmobile toy cone went unnoticed by doctors, it could have caused life-threatening consequences.

For example, if the airway remained closed or blocked by the cone, it would enhance* Braxton’s risk of dangerous infections, scarring of the lungs, pneumonia, and eventually respiratory failure.

The interesting case was published in the BMJ[3] and shows that after the surgery, the cough disappeared while lung tissue showed mild scarring, which is expected after the procedure.


An interesting case happened in the UK when a Royal Mail postal worker saw his healthcare provider after he has been feeling unwell for more than a year. He coughed out mucus and was diagnosed with pneumonia.

After he was referred to a specialist, the X-ray showed a shadow on lungs which led doctors to diagnose the patient with a tumor. During the surgery, doctors found out the tumor were a toy he inhaled 40 years ago. If left undetected, the toy could have caused many dangerous issues.

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