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First-time mum says unborn baby "saved her life" after tumour spotted during baby scan

Image credit: Megan McQuade

A pregnant mother from the UK has said her unborn baby “saved her life” after her first scan at 6 weeks uncovered that she had early stage bladder cancer.

Mum-to-be Megan McQuade (29) from Teesside in England said herself and her partner Michael Johnston were told she had cancer just before Christmas. According to the BBC, the couple, who had been trying for a baby, were warned they may have to make a choice about continuing the pregnancy.

Speaking to BBC Radio Tees this week, Ms McQuade opened up about her journey over the last couple of months, describing what lay ahead of her as “the worst decision that anyone could ever have to face”.

The primary school teacher said that at about six weeks into the pregnancy, she noticed spotting and went for a check-up.

“As a first-time mum, I panicked,” she told Radio Tees. During the scan, the sonographer found what appeared to be a shadow on her bladder, and urged her to get it checked out.

The couple, who were so “overjoyed” at being able to get a glimpse of their baby for the first time, ended up forgetting about the warning from the sonographer.

When Ms McQuade returned to hospital two weeks later, she knew the situation was serious.

She explained, “The lady’s tone completely changed. She said ‘I really think you need to get it looked into so please, make an appointment with your GP”.

“It suddenly hit me then,” she recalled. “I felt a turn in my stomach almost that something wasn’t right”.

In December, after meeting with a consultant at North Tees University Hospital, the couple were warned that it could be cancer. The pregnant mum said she was overwhelmed thinking about the possibilities, and whether herself and her baby would survive.

“The second I walked out of the room my partner just put his arm around me and said, ‘Are you alright? and I just broke down.

“All possibilities were flooding through my mind – am I going to survive it? What’s going to happen with baby? It was awful”, she said.

“We had this lovely plan for Christmas Day to finally tell our families,” she told the local radio station. “None of them knew because we wanted to let them know with this lovely video for everybody – and the consultant sat there telling me basically that I could have cancer”.

“We were excited to see their reactions, but we had the cancer looming over us. We knew there was still a risk of not having a baby”.

Ms McQuade went on to undergo treatment for the bladder cancer.

Early last month, she was told she would have a procedure done with a camera to get a closer look.

Ms McQuade said the tumour itself was so small, doctors managed to carry out a full removal at the same time as taking a biopsy. However, a torturous two-week-long wait followed for results.

“That was the hardest part,” Ms McQuade said, “you are living in limbo, you don’t know what to prepare for. You think ‘do I try to be positive’ and think of the best possible scenario, or do you try to be realistic and get yourself upset regardless.

“After the surgery the consultant came to see me and explained that it had all gone really well, we were waiting on the results to decide what would happen with baby,” she said, adding that staff had been “amazing”.

“All the nurses at North Tees have been so understanding and caring. It has been overwhelming – scary but I feel really thankful to have met such amazing people.”

“The next steps were to determine whether I needed chemotherapy or not and if I did it was explained to me that we would have to basically choose between whether we would take it out, we treat it with chemo or keep baby.”

The couple would receive their results two weeks later after an anxious wait.

“The day of the results was really hard,” she remembers. “The nurse rang asked if I could come in at 9am instead of lunchtime. She actually got upset for me.

“We sat down, the consultant said, ‘Everything has gone really well, we managed to get it all out, we took out some extra cells around it just to make sure there’s no chance of it growing back. We believe at this point there’s no further treatment needed’.

“I still get a bit tearful,” she said, “It was the best possible news I could have had”.


The couple are now looking forward to welcoming their baby in July. Following the birth, Ms McQuade is set to have two more procedures with a camera – and if both come back clear, the UK mum-to-be will be discharged.

Reflecting on a difficult time, she told the programme: “I believe that everything happens for a reason”.

“Michael and I have waited for two years for exactly that time to come around so that they could warn us that something wasn’t right – it has all worked out,” she added.

The mum has used her story to warn others about their bladder health, explaining that she had no symptoms.

“The scariest part was that I had no symptoms whatsoever,” she told the BBC. Thankfully, both mum and baby are well – and the couple are excited for their next scan.

“I am doing fine now and baby is really well – we have a 20-week scan coming up in a couple of weeks so we are looking forward to getting to see baby again then”.

Bladder cancer is where a tumour develops in the bladder lining. In some cases, the tumour spreads into the bladder muscle. The most common symptom of the cancer is blood in urine — which is usually painless.

The condition is more common in older adults, which most new cases diagnosed in those aged 60 and above. Bladder cancer is also more common in men than in women, and according to the NHS, is the 11th most common cancer in the U.K. — with 10,000 people diagnosed with the cancer every year.

It affects about 490 people in Ireland each year, and is treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy depending on the type.

This piece was first published on Gript

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