Baby born with a brain tumor beats the odds and is tumor-free

NBC Universal, Inc.

Brain tumors are the most common solid tumors in children. In fact, approximately 4,000 children will be diagnosed with brain tumors each year. The five-year survival rate in kids is 74%. But the younger the child, the chances of survival decrease, so what are the odds a child will survive when the brain tumor develops before birth?

Watching her little girl swing and slide, climb and walk is all Emily Murray has dreamed of.

“I found out I was pregnant right before the pandemic,” said Murray a single woman who chose fertility treatments to start her dream of having a family. An ultrasound at 36 weeks showed a mass in the middle of baby Elizabeth’s brain.

“Elizabeth’s story is quite unique in that her tumor was found in utero, so, we detected it before she was even born," said Dr. Jennifer Strahle, pediatric neurologist at St. Louis Children's Hospital-Washington University.

The age, size, and location of the tumor were extremely rare.

“A teratoma is a type of tumor that contains multiple types of tissues. So, it can have hair and teeth, and tissues from all over,” Strahle explained.

Elizabeth’s tumor was extremely large – about the size of a grapefruit. Born with fluid on the brain, Elizabeth started having seizures.

“Before we were able to take out the tumor, we had to perform surgery to drain those cysts,” said Strahle.

Then when she was strong enough, another surgery removed the tumor.

“I said, ‘Well, hold on. How much of the tumor did you get?’ And she said, ‘Oh, I think we got the whole thing’,” Murray recalled.

Doctors believe the tumor may have caused right-side cerebral palsy.

“That side of her body has the most trouble with movement and muscle tone,” said Dr. Lindsay Peglar Marsala neonatal neurologist at St. Louis Children's Hospital-Washington University.

Now, at two and a half, she’s making great strides, catching up cognitively with her peers, and the latest scans show that Elizabeth is tumor free – something her mom always dreamed of.

“It was scary, but it never felt impossible,” said Murray.

Elizabeth may always have weaker muscles on her right side, but it should not hold her back in any way. Doctors also have seen her brain mature and develop with time.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer & Editor.

Contact Us