Reporting Dr. Maria Simbra
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Hayley Roberts was only 16 when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
“I was a junior in high school, started gaining a lot of weight, particularly in my abdomen, but I wasn’t gaining weight anywhere else. And my abdominal region was very firm,” she describes.
A CT scan showed something big growing in her belly. It was cancer — a rare type called a granulosa cell tumor.
“It was shocking,” she said. “I definitely didn’t expect it, being relatively healthy, being active. I wasn’t expecting something that major.”
Within days she was in the operating room and the 13-pound tumor was removed.
“Thirty-plus centimeters, basically filling her abdomen, so larger than what you’d expect with a full-term pregnant uterus,” said Dr. Wayne Christopherson, a gynecologic oncologist at UPMC Mercy. “This is certainly larger than normal.”
Granulosa cell tumors of the ovary make up only one to two percent of ovarian cancers. These tumors secrete estrogen and a typical symptom can be abnormal bleeding.
For Hayley, finding support from others with the same condition was difficult.
“All the things that I found were talking about postmenopausal women having the disease and so I felt very alone, like I was the only teenager ever to have this type of cancer,” Hayley said.
But she found a Facebook page and through a foundation in New Zealand that studies this type of cancer, she found two other women in their 20s who had granulosa cell tumors.
She’s now a sophomore in college, runs cross country and lives a full life.
Of course, she is watched closely for any recurrence.
“Right now the cancer has been completely removed – they got it all in one sweep,” she said. “But as far as follow up is concerned, I do have to do blood work every six months. They check for a tumor marker called Inhibin B that helps detect more tumors of this type, and I also get regular sonograms.”
“She had a low stage tumor, she’s doing well. All of those are the things you like to have happen,” said Dr. Christopherson.