When Hunter Jones, then 4, visited Dr. Harlyn Susarla for a routine dental checkup last year at Stellar Kids Dentistry, the Washington-based dentist noticed not one, but several loose teeth, which was odd for her age.
Upon ordering a panoramic X-ray, Dr. Harlyn was stunned to discover a growing tumor in the girl’s jaw.
“I was freaked out,” Kara Jones, Hunter’s mother told KOMO News. “I was at the dentist. You don’t – tumor? No.”
The Jones family went to Seattle Children’s Hospital, where their daughter was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma, a rare and deadly type of childhood cancer that develops from nerve cells.
“This is such an aggressive disease process,” said Seattle Children’s craniofacial surgeon Dr. Seenu Susarla. “Early recognition and diagnosis is the key, I think, for treatment.”
Dr. Susarla praised the keen eye of the dentist, who happens to be his wife: “She’s certainly a lot smarter than I am, and this is just one more piece of evidence that suggests that.”
Dear Friends, We need your help! Hunter Rose Jones is a beautiful fun-loving 4 1/2 year old patient at Stellar Kids…
Next, a couple more tumors were found in Hunter’s abdomen and hip. During her 140-day-long battle with cancer at Seattle Children’s, Hunter had to undergo two tumor removals, five rounds of chemotherapy, two stem cell transplants, six rounds of immunotherapy and 12 rounds of radiation.
Although the treatment was so aggressive that it caused hearing loss and some other health issues, the brave 5-year-old girl was declared cancer-free and everyone was grateful that it saved Hunter’s life.
“The fact that this was something that was found in the dental chair – I’m grateful that I saw this and that she was able to get the care and the treatment that she needed,” Harlyn Susarla told KONO News. “Honestly, I probably think about her every day.”
The Jones family is now raising money through a GoFundMe campaign. Aiming for a $50,000, the fundraiser will help pay for Hunter’s continuing treatment, which includes a 12-month clinical trial in New York City. Hopefully it will prevent the cancer’s possible return in the future.
Hello, Hunter Rose leaves for New York for a month tomorrow. The Jones family is a little overwhelmed. People have been…
What is Neuroblastoma?
According to American Cancer Society, the types of cancers that develop in children are often different from the types that develop in adults. In the case of neuroblastoma, it starts in certain very early forms of nerve cells, most often found in embryos or a fetus. This type of cancer usually occurs in infants and children younger than 10 years.
Neuroblastoma accounts for 7 to 10 percent of childhood cancers, according to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Each year, 800 new cases are diagnosed in the US. In fact, it accounts for 50 percent of all cancers in infants, making it the most common tumor in infants younger than 1 year old.
Neuroblastoma: Signs and Symptoms
Fortunately, most children with neuroblastoma are diagnosed before age 5, according to St, Jude Children’s. Symptoms of neuroblastoma may include:
- A hard, painless mass in the neck
- Stomach pain
- Feeling irritable
- Decreased appetite
- Leg weakness
Early Detection of Childhood Cancer
According to American Cancer Society, many cancers in children are found early, either by a child’s doctor or by parents or relatives. But it can be hard to recognize childhood cancer right away, mostly due to early symptoms being similar to those caused by much more common illnesses or injuries.
In fact, early signs of cancer in children are often masked by sickness or bumps or bruises. Cancer in children is not common, but it’s important to have your child checked by a doctor if they have unusual signs or symptoms that do not go away, such as:
- An unusual lump or swelling
- Unexplained paleness and loss of energy
- Easy bruising
- An ongoing pain in one area of the body
- Unexplained fever or illness that doesn’t go away
- Frequent headaches, often with vomiting
- Sudden eye or vision changes
- Sudden unexplained weight loss
Most of these symptoms are much more likely to be caused by something other than cancer, such as an injury or infection. Other symptoms are also possible, depending on the type of cancer. Still, if your child has any of these symptoms, it’s advised to consult with a doctor so that the cause can be found and treated.