Cervical cancer during pregnancy: what it means for you

Pregnancy itself is an exciting and sometimes difficult time. If the diagnosis of cervical cancer is added, the situation becomes even more difficult. Here we explain what you should know about it.

Cervical Cancer During Pregnancy: Is It Even Possible?

The risk of developing cervical cancer during pregnancy is just as high as when you are not pregnant. The risk of developing cervical cancer does not increase until the age of 53 on average. The diagnosis is the same.

  • The diagnosis initially proceeds after a PAP smear is made, which is conspicuous. This is the same test as without pregnancy.
  • After an abnormal test, a colposcopy is performed . This is a procedure in which the cervix (cervix), neck of the womb (cervix), and vagina are viewed using a microscope, which is not inserted. Therefore, there is no risk to the fetus.
  • Portio and cervix are coated with an acid or iodine solution and diseased cells stain differently than healthy ones. In this way, it can be visually determined whether altered cells are present.
  • If you are unsure, a biopsy is done. This can be problematic during pregnancy due to bleeding, so a biopsy is only performed in the rarest of cases.
  • The piece of tissue, if one was taken, is then analyzed in more detail in the laboratory.
  • A majority of cervical cancers happen because of the HPV virus (Human Papillomavirus) . There are different strains, some of which have a particularly high risk of causing cervical cancer.
  • However, there is a vaccination against these strains .

If the cancer is detected during pregnancy

Cancer in pregnancy is complicated. Most anti-cancer drugs harm the child. It is therefore important to weigh up exactly how dangerous the cancer is and whether the risk for mother and child can be minimized by postponing treatment until after pregnancy. Exactly what happens depends on the progress of the cancer and the progress of the pregnancy.

  • When the cancer is in its early stages, it is common to delay treatment until after the baby is born.
  • If the cancer is more advanced and the pregnancy is still early, treatment is usually started. Unfortunately, miscarriage is likely to occur.
  • In late pregnancy with advanced cancer, the matter is particularly problematic. There is often a difficult balance between not treating the tumor and just waiting until the child is viable so that a cesarean  can be performed and the mother can be treated as soon as possible.
  • If the cancer is advanced and the child is viable, a cesarean section and hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) are usually done.
  • Ultimately, it is up to the mother to decide what to do in each case, whether to start treatment that will harm the child or whether she wants to give birth to the child.
  • Treatment options include: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, anti-hormone therapy, and antibody therapy. Unfortunately, none of them are gentle on the child, which is why the decision between treatment and pregnancy is so difficult.
  • However, there are some cases in which the mother has carried the child and a tumor has grown next to it, which has grown particularly well due to the pregnancy and the resulting good blood circulation. However, mother and child survived this difficult situation.
  • So while the pregnancy and cervical cancer situation is a difficult one, it is not insurmountable and can often be successfully managed.

Getting pregnant despite cervical cancer

Getting pregnant despite cervical cancer is possible, but by no means advisable for the above reasons. If you were diagnosed with cervical cancer before you became pregnant, there are ways to treat the cancer and preserve the woman’s fertility. Keep in mind that this puts you at a higher risk of miscarriage.

  • It all depends on how early the cancer was detected and how far it has spread. Surgery is still the surest way to get rid of most cancers.
  • These operations come in different forms depending on your needs.
  • For example, conization is a procedure in which a piece of the cervix and cervix, about the size of a cherry, is removed. This procedure can be done under local anesthesia and is the most gentle.
  • Unfortunately, conization is only possible if the tumor is local and still in its early stages.
  • There is also the procedure of radical trachetomy. About 2/3 of the cervix and part of the parametrium (tissue around the cervix and bladder) are removed and the cervix is ​​fixed against the wall of the vagina. 
  • Trachelectomy is used when conization is not enough because the cancer has spread. A woman can also become pregnant after a trachelectomy, but she usually has to spend the last few weeks in a women’s clinic because the risk of a miscarriage is very high here.
  • It is therefore possible to get pregnant after cervical cancer in some cases, but unfortunately not in all because sometimes the uterus and ovaries have to be removed.
  • The cancer itself has no effect on the possibility of becoming pregnant. The surgical interventions can be problematic, as well as any hormone treatment.

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