Mother, 34, was diagnosed with a two-in-a-million cancer after she was pregnant and her symptoms flared up
A pregnant woman was diagnosed with cancer after doctors discovered her tumor when her growing baby worsened her symptoms.
Rachel Avon was forced to have her appendix removed while she was six months pregnant after developing sharp pain in her right side.
While operating with what they thought was appendicitis, the surgeons discovered that the now 34-year-old pseudomyxoma had peritonei, which usually starts in the appendix and affects only one in 500,000 people.
The weight of her growing baby is thought to have caused the symptoms of the mother of two. The surgeons managed to remove both her appendix and the tumor in the same procedure.
The doctors then made the controversial decision not to tell primary school teacher or her husband Ross Avon, 35, that she had fought cancer until after giving birth to their daughter Cari.
This is due to concerns about the safety of pregnant women with MRI scans, who detect if cancer has spread.
After finally being told that she had unknowingly fought the disease, a scan showed no signs of residual tumors, with Mrs. Avon, of Newport, who was declared cancer-free five years later.
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Rachel Avon was diagnosed with the rare cancer pseudomyxoma peritonei while pregnant with her daughter Cari (pictured together five years ago). The disease affects only two in every million people and usually begins in the appendix. The weight of the growing baby is thought to have caused her cancer symptoms, causing her to have “painful” pain in her side
Mrs. Avon went under the knife to remove the appendix in case of suspected appendicitis. Surgeons then discovered the tumor that they pulled out there and then. Mrs. Avon has recently been pictured with her husband Ross and their daughters Ffion, six, (left) and Cari
The ultrasound of Cari (photo) revealed no signs that Mrs. Avon fought the rare cancer
Speaking of the ordeal, Mrs. Avon said: “Cari is a very special girl – without her my cancer could have been a very different story
“If Cari had not been there, my cancer would not have been picked up so quickly and it could have been much worse.
“It was because of my pregnancy that it caused the problem with my appendix, which means I needed surgery – without the surgery my tumor would not have been accidentally found.”
WHAT IS PSEUDOMYXOMA PERITONEI?
Pseudomyxoma peritonei is a very rare form of cancer that usually starts in the appendix and spreads to the pelvis.
It is thought that it affects only two in every million people.
Pseudomyxoma peritonei develops after a polyp in the appendix bursts through the wall of the organ.
As a result, mucus-producing tumor cells spread through the abdominal cavity.
As these cells accumulate, the abdominal area becomes inflamed and gastrointestinal activity may slow down.
Pseudomyxoma peritonei usually causes an bloated stomach, which is not painful to the touch. The cause is unclear.
Without treatment, the intestines can be blocked, leading to malnutrition and life-threatening complications.
About 65 percent of patients heal after treatment.
This usually includes surgery to remove the tumor.
To prevent the cancer cells from being reimplanted, the abdomen can be washed with a chemotherapy solution.
Mrs. Avon was worried after developing “painful” pain in her stomach during her pregnancy.
“I was terrified that it was related to my unborn baby, so I called the midwife,” she said.
“The midwife advised that I go to the hospital, so I definitely thought the worst.”
An ultrasound in the hospital showed no signs that something was wrong with the baby.
Mrs. Avon then had a blood test that led doctors to believe she might have appendicitis.
Appendicitis describes the painful swelling of the appendix; the small bag that connects to the colon.
Untreated, the inflamed appendix can crack and waste products spill into the abdomen.
The doctors therefore had no choice but to operate.
“I was really nervous – having surgery after six months” was a big thing, but they said that despite being pregnant, she had to put my life above the baby, “Mrs. Avon said.
“It was an extremely difficult time, but since I was already a mother of Ffion, who was only one, I understood that I had to put myself first.”
Under the knife, the doctor discovered the real cause of Mrs. Avon’s discomfort, but kept it to herself.
Mrs. Avon describes Cari (pictured left) as a “really special girl” and says “without her my cancer could have been very different.” The mother of two (also pictured on the right) was only told that she had fought cancer until after her birth. This decision was made by doctors because pregnant women are not recommended MRI scans that detect whether tumors have spread
Mrs. Avon (pictured with her family) was finally told about her cancer problem five days after Cari was born. An MRI scan showed no signs of the disease, but she still needed annual checks. Five years later, Mrs. Avon celebrates being officially declared cancer-free
Four days after the birth of Cari, the consultant who removed Mrs. Avon’s appendix asked her to come back to the hospital for what the new mother believed as a check-up after her operation.
It was then that Mrs. Avon was finally told that she had fought cancer unknowingly.
“When I discovered that doctors hadn’t told me about my cancer, I was so shocked – in the short term it didn’t feel like the right decision, but five years later, I know it was the right decision they made for us, she said.
“The reasoning of doctors not to tell me until Cari was born was due to the fact that I could not have an MRI to see if the cancer had spread until after the baby was born.”
When Mrs. Avon came to get the scan, the results came back ‘clearly’.
“If the tumor had spread, I would have needed a major operation – something like” the mother of all operations ” [MOAS] – because chemotherapy would not have worked, “she said.
“MOAS is where they remove all organs that you do not need and” wash “all other organs internally to reduce the number of cancer cells.
“It sounds awful, so I’m lucky I didn’t need it.”
Mrs Avon required annual checks to ensure that the disease had not returned. Five years later she finally got the all-clear.
“Now I am healthier and happier than ever,” she said. “I even recently ran the London Marathon to raise money for Cancer Research UK.
“I am determined to raise awareness of pseudomyxoma peritoneii to help other people.”
Mrs. Avon (pictured with Cari) claims that she is “healthier and happier than ever.”