By Louise Chang, MD
Many of you may have heard the news of young Addison Cox, the 9-month-old baby with advanced melanoma skin cancer. Her mother had a cancerous skin melanoma removed years ago and was deemed cancer-free when she was pregnant. It was only shortly after the birth of Addison that her mom was found with melanoma that had spread to her brain and other organs. Addison’s mother passed away a few weeks ago, and Addison is fighting melanoma that has spread to her brain, lungs, liver, and other parts of her body.
Having cancer during pregnancy is uncommon; estimates are that it may occur in 1 in 1000 pregnancies. Spread of cancer to a fetus is much less common, with less than 100 cases reported since 1866. Melanoma comprises about 30% of those cases.
Addison’s mother did everything right. After her initial cancer was removed, she had routine check-ups to make sure it hadn’t recurred, and when she was re-diagnosed shortly after giving birth, she insisted her daughter be tested. Sometimes cancer can be insidious and, unfortunately, discovered too late. It’s a tragedy, but a rare one, and an important reminder to keep checking your and your children’s health, and if you’ve had a history of illness, to make sure your doctors are running all the appropriate tests.