29 September 2023

Women share their stories to mark 50 years of the Sheffield Gestational Trophoblastic Disease Centre

Women share their personal stories and thanks as the Sheffield Gestational Trophoblastic Disease Centre, based at Weston Park Cancer Centre, turns 50.


  • The Sheffield Gestational Trophoblastic Disease Centre is one of only two specialist national treatment centres, commissioned by NHS England, caring for women diagnosed with gestational trophoblastic disease
  • Gestational trophoblastic disease is a little-known group of conditions which grow from the tissue that form during pregnancy
  • The Sheffield Centre looks after patients across the north of England
  • It has supported more than 19,400 patients to date, with approximately 2,000 receiving treatment for resulting cancer.


 Li Li's story

Academic Li Li, 43, who lives in Sunderland, spoke of how she felt “completely terrified” when she was diagnosed with choriocarcinoma, a trophoblastic disease that affects one in 50,000 pregnancies, just six days after giving birth on the 26 October 2022.

Her diagnosis led her to spend the immediate months after the birth of her son, Luca, miles away from home, receiving intensive chemotherapy treatment.

“When I heard the word ‘cancer’ it was like boom. I was terrified. I had a newborn baby. How could I have cancer? I asked the doctors, please help me, please save my life,” said Li Li, who found out she had the disease after a CT scan revealed abnormalities in her womb, liver and lungs.

With her HCG levels now skyrocketing at 3.4 million, an urgent transfer to Weston Park Cancer Centre was arranged, and within a day of diagnosis she arrived at the specialist centre, weak and unable to breathe, to start chemotherapy treatment.

Li Li started to feel better and within a few days her oxygen line was removed. However, the cancer had started to spread from her womb to her brain, causing her to suffer with life-threatening bleeding, and chemo injections were given in her spine every two weeks.

In the meantime, her son, who had been born severely anaemic, was given the all-clear and she was able to spend time with him in hospital, with her husband, Kevin, staying in a nearby facility thanks to special arrangements made by the hospital team.

By the turn of the year, the abnormal cells decreased, and in February she was switched over to a reduced intensity immunotherapy treatment, allowing her to begin the process of restarting her new life with her young family.

“Looking back, I was unlucky to have this disease, but I was transferred to Weston Park Cancer Centre so quickly. The staff at Weston Park were so brilliant and professional, I can’t thank the doctors and nurses in Sheffield enough, they gave me my life and saved me with my family," she said.

Rachel's story

Rachel Hunter, 39, found out she had suffered a molar pregnancy when she went for a pregnancy scan in early 2020 a few months after she believed she had fallen pregnant again following a miscarriage.

“The ultrasound was a complete mess, it looked like a blizzard or a snowstorm, I was told they would have to operate and sadly the pregnancy wasn’t viable.”

The next day Rachel had a procedure to remove the abnormal tissue which had formed during the early stages of her pregnancy. Monitoring continued through weekly blood tests, and her HGC levels remained elevated despite her recent procedure.

After four weeks, her levels dropped to the 2,000 range but when they started to increase again, she was referred to the Sheffield Trophoblastic Centre at Weston Park Cancer Centre for specialist tests and investigations.

Sadly, her worst fear came true – and following detailed investigations doctors confirmed the molar pregnancy had developed into a cancerous 2cm tumour which was growing untreated.

“It was hard coming to terms with a pregnancy working against you. I thought I was growing a life, but it turned out to be a tumour. If left unchecked, it would have killed me.”

You can read more about how the Sheffield Gestational Trophoblastic Disease Centre celebrated 50 years of world-leading care for rare cancers of the womb on our news page.

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