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Unusual size head helped diagnose baby’s brain cancer

Molly with her mum Corinne

A North Wales mum whose daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumour after a rapid growth of her head is working with the charity Brain Tumour Research to raise awareness.

Baby Molly Wardle-Hampton was just 12 weeks old when a sudden bulge of the soft spots in her head led to the discovery of an ependymoma tumour on her brain.

The devastating diagnosis came months after her staff nurse mum, Corinne Wardle, 38 began to document a catalogue of unusual behaviours. These included: a fixed eye gaze, a tilt to one side of her head, not settling and vomiting.

Pictured: Paul, Leah, Molly, Kacey and Corinne

Corinne from Flint, who is also mum to Leah, 12 and Kacey, 11, said: “For the first few months of her life, Molly couldn’t be put down and would cry every time – as if she were in pain – looking back  this was one of the symptoms which pieced everything together.

“I tried different things to eliminate conditions common with new-borns. It was both her eyes deviating outwards and her head measuring off the charts which meant she had a CT scan and that was when I was given the worst news you could ever hear as a parent.”

Molly just days before she was diagnosed with a brain tumour

The tumour covered almost the entirety of the right side of Molly’s brain. She was blue-lighted to Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool where she had emergency surgery.

Corinne said: “I felt a huge relief when I was told the mass was removed. Molly had to spend time in the intensive care and the high dependency unit due to full-body blood loss during the procedure.

“For the first time in her life, Molly  laid on her back, staring out of the window, babbling. I was overcome with emotion as for the last three months she couldn’t be put down. It was amazing to see. Especially after being told, had we waited any longer, that would have likely been the last day of her life.”

This month, Molly is due to finish her year-long clinical trial treatment.

Happily, MRI scan results on 3 January 2023 came back clear, with no further growth of Molly’s tumour. However, treatment has left Molly with life-changing injuries and she now needs hearing aids.

Corinne has worked at the Countess of Chester Hospital for five years. She is campaigning with the charity Brain Tumour Research to raise awareness and support their mission to increase the UK investment in research in to the disease.

She added: “According to Molly’s oncologist, this cancer can be cured but the evidence is minimal. Her specific cancer – ependymoma – has subtypes that have very different outcomes and behave differently. However, this discovery is recent, meaning evidence and research is minimal. So whilst we have been assured that Molly’s outcome is bright, it highlights there is a need for further research into brain tumours.

“From the evidence I have studied, this terrifies me. Molly will likely have MRI scans for the rest of her life as there is a possibility of the tumour returning. Despite the risks and uncertainty, she still has a chance and that offers me some respite. She’s recently learned to say ‘Mama’ which makes me smile every time I hear it.”

One in three people knows someone affected by a brain tumour and they kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, yet historically just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to brain tumours.

Mel Tiley, community, development manager Brain Tumour Research, said: “We’re grateful to Corinne for sharing Molly’s story and wish the family well as Molly nears the end of her treatment. Unfortunately Molly’s story is a reminder that brain tumours are indiscriminate and can affect anyone at any age. With the support of people like Corinne we aim to change the shocking stats around the disease. It’s only by working together that we will be able to improve treatment options for patients and, ultimately, find a cure.”