Understanding Choriocarcinoma Cancer
- Dr. Jen Arnold has skeletal dysplasia, a bone-growth condition and starred in TLC’s ‘Little Couple’ reality show.
- Arnold was diagnosed with stage 3 choriocarcinoma, a fast-growing type of cancer, that stems from gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD). GTD is a pregnancy-related condition that develops inside a woman’s uterus.
- Choriocarcinoma develops from placental cells and can occur in the womb after pregnancy, a miscarriage, abortion or a molar pregnancy.
- Treatment options for choriocarcinoma can include surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy.
- Arnold credited her husband and children for keeping her motivated while on the road to remission.
Dr. Jen Arnold, star of TLC’s “The Little Couple” had just adopted to wonderful kids when she was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer and began one of the most important fights of her life. Today, 10 years after beating the disease, she’s cherishing every single moment with her little ones and husband — something so many survivors know well.
Arnold, 49, shares many of her life’s joyous moments on social media, as her Instagram showcases so well. The Boston native spends lots of time with her two children – William and Zoey – at the beach, having dinners and even horseback riding.Read More
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More recently, Arnold, a board certified-pediatric and neonatal doctor, shared a social media post expressing concern over the rise in mass shootings and their impact on children.
“Hi friends! Like so many of you, I’ve been horrified by the constant news of mass shootings in our country,” Arnold said in her post.
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She continued advocating kids’ safety from gun violence in a recent interview on fellow cancer warrior Katie Couric’s media platform ‘Katie Couric Media’.
“I hope you’ll join me in taking steps to keep our kids safe. Firearm violence is the leading cause of death in kids,” Arnold said.
Last year, Arnold shared how fortunate she is to be able to call herself a cancer survivor on World Cancer Day.
“Feeling so fortunate to be a survivor on this #worldcancerday! Thinking of all those who have survived gracefully, still fighting bravely, & those who we have lost tragically,” she said in an Instagram post.
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Arnold has skeletal dysplasia, a bone-growth condition also known as dwarfism, according to Cleveland Clinic. An adult person with dwarfism is under 4 feet, 10 inches tall. With current treatment options, people can manage their symptoms and live normal lives with the condition.
Arnold rose to fame from her role on the TLC reality show, which began in 2009, that featured Arnold and her husband Bill Klein. The program shows how the couple, both of whom are under 4 feet tall, raise a family of adopted children and navigate life’s challenges.
Dr. Jen Arnold’s Cancer Diagnosis
During the show’s run, Arnold was diagnosed with stage 3 choriocarcinoma, a fast-growing type of rare cancer that forms in the uterus where a fetus develops, according to the National Library of Medicine. This type of cancer can occur from an abnormal pregnancy.
“I have recently been diagnosed with a rare type of cancer and am currently undergoing treatment, including surgery and chemotherapy,” Arnold told NBC’s “Today” during a 2013 interview.
She and her husband struggled to have children, and it was when she developed an abnormal pregnancy that she got cancer.
“The one time I get pregnant, I get cancer,” Arnold told People.
Choriocarcinoma can develop from placental cells and can occur in the womb after pregnancy, a miscarriage, abortion or a molar pregnancy, “which occurs when the fertilization of the egg by the sperm goes wrong and leads to the growth of abnormal cells or clusters of water filled sacs inside the womb,” according to Cancer Research UK.
Choriocarcinoma can also metastasize or spread to other parts of the body.
The National Institute of Health lists the various stages of choriocarcinoma as:
- Stage 1: Disease confined to the uterus
- Stage 2: Disease extending beyond the uterus, but confined to genital structures
- Stage 3: Disease extending to the lungs
- Stage 4: Disease invading other metastatic sites
What Are Common Symptoms of Choriocarcinoma?
According to Cancer Research U.K., common symptoms for choriocarcinoma may include:
- Abdominal swelling
- Vaginal bleeding
- Anemia, in which there are not enough healthy red blood cells
If choriocarcinoma has spread to other parts of the body, symptoms may include:
- Lungs: you may have a cough or difficulty breathing and occasional chest pain
- Vagina: you may encounter heavy bleeding or develop a lump in your vagina
- Abdomen: you may experience abdominal pain
- Brain: you may experience headaches, dizziness and seizures
Despite the symptoms associated with choriocarcinoma, the cancer is “nearly always cured, even if it has spread to other parts of the body” Cancer Research U.K. says.
Treatment options for choriocarcinoma can include surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy.
Arnold’s doctor told People that her dwarfism complicated her treatment options for the cancer.
While doctors tried to avoid surgery due to Arnold’s dwarfism, the severity of her cancer left them with few options.
“We wanted to avoid surgery in her case because of her shortened airway and the difficulties she has had in the past with surgeries. But we felt we had no choice. The disease was not responding to chemotherapy. We had to do this in order to save her life,” Dr. Concepcion R. Diaz-Arrastia said.
Doctors managed to remove a mass in Arnold’s uterus and afterwards she went into remission.
Power of Family Support for Cancer Warriors
Arnold credited her husband and children for keeping her motivated while on the road to remission.
“Bill knows when I’m not doing well, and he takes such good care of me. That was huge. That and enjoying watching my children play was a huge uplifting part of my treatment,” Arnold said.
WATCH: Three-time cancer survivor explains how optimism and support helps cancer warriors battling cancer.
SurvivorNet experts say family support not only eases the anxiety of the cancer warrior, and the added support helps their loved ones too. In Arnold’s case, her family gave her mind something else to focus on while battling her own cancer.
“With kids running around, you don’t have much time to feel sorry for yourself,” Arnold added.
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