Sunday 22 October 2017

Cancer-test man discovers he was born with a womb

The man, named only as Rob to protect his identity, has reportedly been advised by medical staff to have the organs surgically removed, even though it could trigger the menopause
The man, named only as Rob to protect his identity, has reportedly been advised by medical staff to have the organs surgically removed, even though it could trigger the menopause

Patrick Sawer

A businessman is preparing to have a hysterectomy after doctors discovered he was born with a womb.

The 37-year-old, from Lancashire, discovered he had a full set of female reproductive organs after undergoing scans for suspected bladder cancer.

The man, named only as Rob to protect his identity, has reportedly been advised by medical staff to have the organs surgically removed, even though it could trigger the menopause.

Doctors believe Rob has a rare condition called persistent Mullerian duct syndrome (PMDS). This results in men developing external male genitalia and internal female reproductive organs.

Most cases are diagnosed at birth or puberty, although people can discover they have intersex bodies - also known as differences of sex development - at any age.

Rob's condition was revealed when he underwent an MRI scan after complaining about blood in his urine.

He said: "The diagnosis came as a bombshell. I've never seen myself as anything but an ordinary bloke who has a normal sex life. I was shocked when the consultant said I had a fully functioning set of women's reproductive organs, and I was even having periods.

"It appears I could even potentially get pregnant. But I've been told by doctors I'll be having a hysterectomy in the next few weeks. Bizarrely, that could lead to menopause."

When he was 18, Rob began noticing blood in his urine, but nothing was detected despite repeated tests and trips to his GP.

Doctors eventually began to suspect bladder cancer, but a biopsy came back clear. Rob was sent for an MRI scan, at which point it was found that he had a functioning uterus, ovaries and even a cervix.

Because he has ovaries it is possible Rob could produce eggs, and since he has a uterus it is conceivable he could even carry a baby himself. But he said: "Much as I long to be a dad, even if this is possible it's not something I could ever do, it would just feel too weird."

Rob has now been referred to a specialist in Manchester for further tests and a full hysterectomy. He is concerned, however, that his condition was not picked up earlier.

He said, "It's possible tests will show I'm both male and female, but I feel completely right living life as a guy.

"Even if tests showed that I was mostly a woman, I would still continue living as a man.

"And while there's a risk that removing the female reproductive organs could negatively affect my sperm, I am hoping it will improve it, and I will become a dad."

Experts say about 120 babies a year are born in the UK with the same condition as Rob, but it is exceptionally rare for cases to be uncovered so late in life.

Each foetus starts off with the potential to be a boy or girl.

The default setting is female but if they have XY chromosomes then testes form, producing hormones that cause male genitalia to grow. This also triggers degeneration of internal female organs.

But in rare cases, those with PMDS do not produce the hormone, or they fail to respond to it.

Prof Richard Sharpe, who leads Edinburgh University's research team on male reproductive health, said: "This results in some female reproductive organs surviving, as well as the growth of male genitalia. It is even more unusual for it not to be spotted until adulthood."

Tam Fry, of the Child Growth Foundation, the UK's leading charity on hormonal issues, said: "It would be very rare for this condition to be picked up in someone's 30s. It's one in 100,000 cases."

Sunday Independent

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