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Annabelle Higgins from Ramsgate defeats brain tumour after proton beam therapy in America

By Connor Dunn

A girl from Ramsgate is recovering from a tumour on her brain after travelling to Oklahoma for proton beam therapy.

Annabelle Higgins was one of 140 people funded by the NHS to go overseas for the treatment last year.

The 10-year-old was diagnosed with a brain tumour called pilocytic astrocytoma in June 2012.

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Annabelle Higgins ice skating
Annabelle Higgins ice skating

Her dad Stephen Higgins explained: "Annabelle was admitted into Great Ormond Street Hospital in June 2012, after an MRI scan revealed a tumour on her brain stem.

"She was operated on July 2012 and we were told they got out 98% of the tumour, unfortunately they had to leave a bit of it as it was right on the brain stem and to risk going for that could have caused damage.

"They hoped the blood supply to the remaining sliver would be cut off and it would wither and die, unfortunately in January 2015 we were given the sad news that this had not occurred.

"She required a further operation in March 2015. Again they got out what they could but we were told by the surgeon straight after the operation that part of the tumour had grown into the brain stem."

Annabelle's case was then reviewed and she then began a course of radiotherapy.

"I'm now putting the past behind me and trying to forget about it all and look forward..." Annabelle Higgins

Mr Higgins added: "We were told she seemed to fit the criteria for proton therapy, which only about 1% of patients fit.

"We had to go through a funding panel at the NHS because treatment is done abroad – we got agreement and we were sent to one of the overseas centres in Oklahoma City."

The family travelled to America in June 2015 for 10 weeks whilst Annabelle had treatment.

Stephen said that she was more tired than usual after treatment and lost some hair, but apart from that was able to carry on as normal.

Annabelle described her experience of therapy.

She said: "Proton therapy is a form of radiation therapy and you have a mask on, then you lay on a special table and there is a big machine and a beam which points at a specific area where the tumour would be and it zaps it."

The brave 10-year-old was taken to heart by the Oklahoma community during her time there.

She sang the American national anthem while taking part in a skating competition.

She said: “America is a lovely place, there is an ice skating rink and ice skating is one of my hobbies so I skated a lot over there.

"I'm now putting the past behind me and trying to forget about it all and look forward."

University College London Hospital and The Christie, Manchester, are building new centres to provide proton beam therapy in the UK.

Today is also World Cancer Day and Cancer Research UK have teamed up with Breast Cancer Care, Anthony Nolan and the Movember Foundation to promote their work in battling the disease.

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