Leicester

Choriocarcinoma: Cancerous 'twin' hidden during pregnancy

Anna Panter and her daughter Lydia Image copyright Cancer Research UK
Image caption Doctors told Anna Panter having a healthy twin from a molar pregnancy was "practically unheard of"

A new mother was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer just weeks after the birth of her daughter.

Anna Panter was only told after Lydia's birth that the healthy newborn was a surviving "twin" from a molar pregnancy - where abnormal cells grow in the womb instead of another foetus.

The 34-year-old was shocked to be told the cluster of cells had developed into a cancer called choriocarcinoma.

Ms Panter, from Leicestershire, had to undergo six months of chemotherapy.

She said: "I was in hospital for 27 days straight to start with and the treatment was extremely disruptive and very difficult - especially with a newborn baby.

"I couldn't possibly breastfeed her because of the chemotherapy."

Doctors also told her having a healthy twin from a molar pregnancy was "practically unheard of".

Ms Panter added: "Lydia is such an incredible miracle, I feel so lucky to have her."

Image copyright Cancer Research UK
Image caption Lydia was born at Leicester Royal Infirmary in September weighing only 4lb 7oz

Ms Panter said she began coughing, experiencing breathing issues and headaches a month before the birth.

Lydia was born two weeks early in September weighing only 4lb 7oz, but was healthy.

Six weeks later, after Ms Panter's placenta was sent for testing she was told Lydia was a surviving "twin" from a molar pregnancy.

The fertilisation process of one of the eggs went wrong, leading to the growth of abnormal cells in the womb.

Image copyright Cancer Research UK
Image caption Ms Panter said treatment was "extremely disruptive", but recent tests had showed positive results

Those cells then developed into choriocarcinoma - which occur in one in every 50,000 pregnancies - and had spread to her brain, lungs and uterus.

"I never thought the outcome was going to be that drastic... but I was told there was a 95% chance of it being completely curable," she said.

Ms Panter was transferred to a specialist centre, 80 miles from her South Wigston home, for six months of chemotherapy.

She added recent tests showed positive results.

What is choriocarcinoma?

  • It can develop if the cells left behind after a pregnancy become cancerous
  • It can happen after any pregnancy, but it's more likely after molar pregnancies
  • It can occur several months, or even years, after a pregnancy
  • It starts in the womb but can spread to other parts of the body - most commonly the lungs where symptoms include coughing, difficulty breathing and chest pain
  • The cancer can have a number of other symptoms depending where it has spread to
  • Chemotherapy is used to treat choriocarcinoma and usually successfully cures it
  • Survival is very high - 90% with "high risk disease" are cured and 100% with "low risk disease" are cured

Source: NHS and Cancer Research UK

Image copyright Cancer Research UK
Image caption Ms Panter will be taking part in the Race for Life at Victoria Park in July

Ms Panter, who is a manager of a Cancer Research UK store, said she aims to help raise awareness of choriocarcinoma and raise funds Cancer Research UK.

She will be taking part in the Race for Life, at Victoria Park, in Leicester, in July.

"It will be very emotional wheeling Lydia round the course," she added.

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