An eight-year-old girl survived stage IV cancer after doctors ‘misread her scans’ for three years.
Ellie Shoup, from Mounds View, Minnesota, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a cancer that forms in nerve tissue, when she was just 11 months old.
Doctors surgically removed her tumor and told her parents that she had a 90 to 95 percent chance of survival and didn’t need any more treatment, reported KARE 11.
But, as it turns out, the physicians had been misreading Ellie’s scans for years and, at age four, the family found out Ellie’s cancer had progressed to stage four, meaning it had spread throughout her body.
Following months of aggressive treatment and enrollment in a clinical trial in New York, Ellie is now cancer-free.
Ellie’s mother, Andrea Shoup, told DailyMail.com that she was devastated when she learned about her daughter’s diagnosis.
‘Her tumor, [doctors]believed, was localized to her neck,’ she said. ‘Her tumor markers favorable, she was given a favorable prognosis.’
In fact, Ellie was given a 90 to 95 percent chance of survival after he tumor was removed.
But, at the first follow-up appointment three months after diagnosis, staff noted a couple of abnormalities on Ellie’s spine during MRIs.
‘They kept reassuring us it wasn’t neuroblastoma,’ said Shoup. ‘They said it was hemangiomas, a benign collection of blood cells.’
Eventually, to appease Ellie’s parents, doctors ordered a urine test, in April 2015.
They learned that Ellie’s cancer was not gone and, in fact, had spread. She now had stage IV neuroblastoma.
‘We learned they had been misreading our scans for three years,’ Shoup said.
‘They found the disease on her hip, spine and head. She was categorized as high-risk stage IV.’
Neuroblastoma is a cancer that develops in immature nerve cells throughout the body.
It most commonly begins in the adrenal glands, which are right on top of the kidneys, but can also develop in other places such as the chest, abdomen or spine.
Symptoms include abdominal pain, chest pain, dark circles around the eyes, fever, and weight loss.
The cancer is most frequently diagnosed in children who are five years old or younger.
Treatment depends on the tumor’s location and size but can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy and stem cell transplants.
According to the American Cancer Society, about 800 new cases of neuroblastoma are diagnosed each year in the US.
Ellie went through six cycles of chemotherapy in Minnesota before her care was transferred to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
There, she underwent proton therapy and immunotherapy as well as a clinical trial, which is testing a neuroblastoma vaccine that could help prevent relapse.
Ellie is now cancer-free but she is remaining in the clinical trial through its end in August in the hope that the longer she’s in the trial, the lower her risk of relapse will be.
Shoup said she encourages parents with similar cases to lean into their intuition.
‘As a mother, if I had followed the original doctors, who knows how long she would have gone?’ she said. ‘Get a second opinion, find the experts, become informed.’