Smile of success as girl aged six wins battle against rare cancer

A GIRL aged six is hoping for a better year after successfully battling against a rare tumour the size of an orange that was attached to an ovary.

Fabienne Richardson was diagnosed with an extremely rare malignant germ cell tumour in May 2009.

She underwent an operation to remove one of her ovaries and was put on a gruelling course of chemotherapy, but now after enduring months of treatment and check-ups her latest scans have given her the all-clear.

Her mother Chantel, 37, said: "She had been complaining of stomach ache and I took her to our GP to have her checked out. They told me there was nothing to worry about, just a water infection so gave her some tablets.

"She wasn't getting any better and she was doubled over in agony. I rushed her back to the doctors and they sent us to hospital with suspected appendicitis."

Fabienne had her appendix removed but surgeons told her parents that it was not as inflamed as they expected it to be, so they wanted to do some more tests.

Mother-of-two Mrs Richardson, from Hull, said: "Within a day she was back on her feet after her operation. Doctors took her for an ultrasound (scan) to see if they could find what was causing the pain.

"My husband Craig and I were told they saw something the size of an orange, which they thought was a cyst and they were going to remove it."

Fabienne spent two hours in surgery having the growth removed at Hull Royal Infirmary.

Her parents were told that because of the size and shape of the cyst more tests would be carried out to determine what it was.

Doctors said the growth was cancerous and after a visit to St James's Hospital in Leeds the Richardsons were informed it was a germ cell tumour, and a course of chemotherapy was recommended for their daughter.

Fabienne's parents had the difficult task of explaining to her and her sister Ellissia, eight, what was wrong.

Mrs Richardson said: "Ellissia got really upset when we were explaining things to the girls. When we explained to Fabienne she would lose her long blonde hair because of the chemo, she just said 'I'll wear a wig'."

Fabienne had four sessions of chemotherapy and had to have some teeth removed because of its effects.

She also had to have blood and platelet transfusions during the treatment as her immune system was weakened.

Fabienne was awarded a Cancer Research UK Little Star Award in recognition of her courage and ran the Race for Life with her family in the summer, raising over 1,000 for the charity.

The family are now hoping for a less eventful 2011 after Fabienne was given the all-clear after a year of treatment and tests.

Mrs Richardson said: "The doctors said Fabienne was extremely lucky that the tumour was causing her some pain, because if not it could have gone undetected and could have easily burst, which would have been fatal."

Disease hits 45 children a year

Germ cell tumours can be cancerous or non-cancerous.

Malignant germ cell tumours are rare with just 45 children a year in the UK being diagnosed with one. It is extremely rare to have one attached to the ovary.

Germ cells normally occur inside the gonads (ovary and testicle). Germ cell tumours that originate outside the gonads may be birth defects resulting from errors during development of the embryo.

In females, germ cell tumours account for about 30 per cent of ovarian tumours.