How news anchor's molar pregnancy led to cancer: 'Just unfortunate dumb luck'

Michelle Velez had never heard of a molar pregnancy before she was diagnosed. "I was completely overwhelmed," she said.

Get the latest from TODAY

Sign up for our newsletter
SUBSCRIBE
/ Source: TODAY
By Rachel Paula Abrahamson

A news anchor from Las Vegas is reporting on her own heartbreaking story.

Michelle Velez revealed on Thursday that she has a rare form of cancer that was caused by a pregnancy complication.

“When I was diagnosed with a molar pregnancy, I was completely overwhelmed,” Velez, who works for KSNV, an NBC-affiliated station, told TODAY Health. “I’d never heard of it before.”

Trending stories,celebrity news and all the best of TODAY.

Molar pregnancies may affect roughly 1 in 1,000 pregnancies, according to Dr. Taraneh Shirazian, a gynecologic surgeon and assistant professor at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.

Velez had a positive pregnancy test in August, but at her first ultrasound, her doctor discovered an empty sac.

"Instead of miscarrying, the pregnancy continued to grow and produced invasive tissue," Velez wrote on Facebook. "In some very rare cases, that tissue can turn into cancer and spread to other organs in the body. That is what happened to me. No good reason … just unfortunate dumb luck.”

The chances of this happening are approximately 1 in 15,000, Shirazian said.

“Normally, we can go into the uterus, remove the tissue and nothing else happens except we have to follow (up), but sometimes that tissue can invade into the uterine muscle and even go through the uterus,” said Shirazian, who was not Velez's doctor.

Symptoms of a molar pregnancy can include vaginal bleeding and abnormally high levels of HCG, which is the hormone produced by the placenta once an embryo implants in the uterus. Velez's HCG levels were 80 times higher than they should have been.

“I was really sick," she said. "It was basically like being pregnant with five or six babies at once. It was confusing, because I knew I’d had a miscarriage, yet I was having terrible food aversions."

The mom of Cruz, 4, and Isabel, 2, is currently undergoing chemotherapy to treat the cancer that has spread to her lungs, spleen and liver. She is expected to make a full recovery.

“I know everyone is worried about me and scared,” she said. “But I feel confident that I am going to be OK.”