How Does a 2-Year-Old Get Ovarian Cancer? Doctors Explain
At first, doctors thought her symptoms were just gas.
Kinni has been battling an extremely rare ovarian cancer called a germ cell tumor. Her parents were shocked when they learned of her diagnosis earlier this year—and with good reason: Most people don’t associate ovarian cancer with two-year-olds.
Kinni’s doctor told GMA she expects the little girl will be able to “thrive” from here on out. “She’s a rock star,” the doctor added. Given what Kinni’s been through, we agree.
After Kenni came down with a fever and a bloated belly, parents Mike and Meagan sped to the pediatrician. The doctors assured the family that Kenni just had gas, the Xydiases told Good Morning America.
Kenni's mother pressed the doctors for more tests, and a 14-centimeter tumor was found over her right ovary, among other smaller cancerous tumors near her liver and abdomen, according to her father.
The family was shocked with their daughter’s diagnosis. How could a 2-year-old have stage 3 ovarian cancer? "The immediate reaction was, 'How could this happen?'," Mike Xydias told GMA. "I knew of this being [more common] in women. I didn't realize that it could happen to such a young kid."
Turns out, the ovarian cancer we typically think of is very different then the type of ovarian cancer Kenni had. Germ cell tumors are the most common form of sex-derived tumors in children, Don Eslin, MD, a pediatric oncologist with Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, tells Health.
Germ cell tumors of the ovary are tumors that start in cells that got stunted early in development but should have become normal parts of a child's reproductive organs, Dr. Eslin says. On the other hand, ovarian cancer in adults forms when something goes wrong later in life with normal cells, unlike germ cell tumors, which never developed into healthy cells, he says.
Germ cell tumors are rare; however, they are the most common form of ovarian and testicular cancer in children. There are several types of germ cell tumors, but they are all treated the same, Dr. Eslin says, usually with surgery and chemotherapy.
Kenni had surgery on February 18, according to a GoFundMe page set up for the Xydias family by Meagan's best friend. Doctors were able to remove 90% of Kenni's largest tumor, as well as other cancerous cells, but they had to remove one ovary and some of her small intestine in the process. Kenni was expected to start chemotherapy on February 27.
Germ cell tumors can also occur in adults, Dr. Eslin says, but it's more likely to occur in children and teens. Childhood ovarian cancer accounts for less than 5% of all ovarian cancer cases, according to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center.
Unfortunately, not much else is known about this rare cancer, Christine Greves, MD, an ob-gyn with Orlando Health System, tells Health. “That’s one of the frustrating components about cancer, we don’t know why it happens sometimes.”
The Xydias family held on to hope that Kenni would kick cancer to the curb. "McKenna Shea is a rambunctious 2-year-old who has never let anything stop her and never will!” the GoFundMe page said.
Meagan Xydias has an important message for other mothers who may have an inkling that their child is suffering from a larger health issue. "I know it can be hard as a mom to go to your doctor and say, 'Something is not right,' because they know what they're doing, but sometimes you have to trust your gut," she told GMA. "I hope after hearing Kenni's story people are willing to say, 'Hey, can you do one more check?'"
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