The mom of two thought she was pregnant—but it turned out to be a rare form of cancer. 

By Korin Miller
October 22, 2019

A news anchor in Las Vegas is opening up about battling a rare form of cancer that was sparked by her pregnancy. 

KSNV News 3 reporter Michelle Velez recently wrote to viewers in a candid Instagram post about why she had been away from work for a few months. “I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that was caused by an abnormal pregnancy,” she said. “It’s extremely complicated so I’ll try my best to make it easy to understand.”

Velez said she had a molar pregnancy, and explains it very thoroughly: “It’s a pregnancy that is not viable—meaning a fetus never formed—but instead of miscarrying… the pregnancy continued to grow and produced invasive tissue,” she said. “In some very rare cases that tissue can turn into cancer.. and spread to other organs in the body. That is what happened to me. No good reason.. just unfortunate dumb luck.”

Velez said her form of cancer is “treatable” and that her doctors “have every reason to believe I will be free and clear at the end of this.” Unfortunately, Velez said she needs to go through “aggressive chemo” to kill the cancer. “Yes.. I will probably lose my hair and experience other side effects of chemo—but all that is temporary."  Total number of rounds all depends on how long it takes the tissue to disappear,” she said.

“I look forward to coming back healthy and strong again,” she said. “Please pray for my family and I.. we need all the love prayers and support we can get.”

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What is a molar pregnancy, exactly, and how can it lead to cancer?

So, the science here is tricky, but, as Velez explained, a molar pregnancy is essentially a pregnancy that is not viable since, instead of a fetus, a tumor forms. This is technically known as gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD), according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which is a general term for rare tumors that form from the tissues surrounding fertilized egg.

Hydatidiform mole (HM) is the most common type of GTD, and they're typically benign, per the NCI. But sometimes GTD can be cancerous—that type is known as gestational trophoblastic neoplasia (GTN), which can include four different types of malignant tumors: invasive moles, choriocarcinomas, placental-site trophoblastic tumors, and epithelioid trophoblastic tumors. 

While GTD in general is rare, the NCI says there are symptoms to look out for, including abnormal vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain or pressure, high blood pressure, fatigue, and having a uterus that’s larger than normal—but again, this doesn't mean the GTD is cancerous.

Velez opened up about experiencing one of those symptoms, abnormal vaginal bleeding, in an Instagram post during a blood transfusion at the hospital. "The reason I keep ending up in the hospital is part of my condition makes me bleed," she said. "Unfortunately, the bleeding is making me anemic." Velez said that at one point she lost so much blood that she became diaphoretic (or excessively sweating) and weak, and that she nearly passed out on her bathroom floor.

While the cause of GTD is unknown, per the NCI, there are risk factors that can make an HM more likely to become cancerous, including being pregnant before age 20 or after age 35, having an ovarian cyst larger than 6cm, or having an overactive thyroid gland, among other things. 

RELATED: What It Was Like to Be Diagnosed With Colorectal Cancer When I Was 28 Weeks Pregnant

What's the treatment for a molar pregnancy?

Treatment varies depending on the stage a woman is diagnosed in, but it may include surgery to remove the abnormal cells, chemotherapy, or radiation, the NCI says. In some cases, a hysterectomy may be needed as well.

Velez recently shared photos and video of herself going through chemo on Instagram, noting that she’s completed her first round of chemo. “I still get nervous every time I walk in. Cried on the first day.. naturally,” she said. “The chemo makes me really cold.. and they put Benadryl in the IV so it knocks me out too.”

Velez said that she hates “knowing all this harsh stuff is going inside me.. taking a toll on my body—but on the other hand—it’s also the only thing saving my life. A real mind mess if you ask me.” Velez also shared that she’s “praying for a lot right now," and that she thanks her family, friends, and even strangers who follow her for their support. 

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