Cervical Cancer And Pregnancy
"Pregnancy is not just about making a baby but also about making a mother."
Cervical cancer is a prevalent cancer among women all over the world. It affects every woman who is young, old, middle age, or even pregnant. Yes, it may sound weird, but it is true. This fact underscores the indiscriminate nature of the disease that has no boundaries in women's health. Let's embark on the journey of motherhood through the phase of cervical cancer.
Understanding Cervical Cancer And Its Impact On Pregnancy
Cervical cancer is the growth of the abnormal cells in the cervix, which leads to several complications in women, such as minor vaginal bleeding to severe life-threatening risks. This may even be complicated if it occurs during pregnancy. Cervical cancer is considered the most common malignancy in pregnant women. Even Though it is common, the incidence of cervical cancer during pregnancy is low.
Symptoms Of Cervical Cancer During Pregnancy
The symptoms of cervical cancer and preeclampsia (pregnancy complication) are more similar, which makes it difficult to identify the early signs of cervical cancer, often leading to complications in treating it. The symptoms of cervical cancer in pregnant and nonpregnant women do not show any difference in the patients. However, some of the pregnant women have shown the following symptoms, which are given below:
- Pelvic pain: Individuals may experience pelvic pain due to the growth of the tumor in the later stages of cervical cancer. Sometimes you may experience pain due to chronic anemia in pregnancy or postpartum vaginal bleeding.
- Vaginal discharge with foul smell: Vaginal discharge is normal in pregnancy. But if it occurs with an itchy, painful, and foul smell, it may be caused due to a vaginal infection by the HPV virus (human papillomavirus) which increases the risk of cervical cancer in women.
- Bowel or urinary problems: The individual may experience frequent or painful urination, which may gradually lead to blood in urine in the later stage of cervical cancer.
- Swelling of legs and Feeling tired: Individuals may experience swelling in the legs and fatigue in the later stages of cervical cancer.
3 Safe Diagnosis Of Cervical Cancer During Pregnancy
The diagnosis procedure for pregnant women with cervical cancer should be delicate. It should be safe for both mother and baby and show an accurate result in diagnosing cervical cancer. Some of the diagnostic methods followed for pregnancy with cervical cancer are given below:
1. Cervical cytology: Cervical cytology, also known as PAP smear, is a test used to diagnose the abnormality of the cervical cells, which is caused by the HPV virus. It is a preliminary test that does not cause any harm to both the pregnant woman and the baby during the cervical cancer diagnosis.
2. Colposcopy: It is a procedure to closely examine the cervix, vagina, and vulva by a gynecologist to diagnose the abnormality or lesion in the cervix. It can be done at the first and third trimester of the pregnancy and repeated after 20 weeks.
3. Cervical biopsy: Biopsy is the collection of the tissue sample for the histological examination of cervical cancer. Directed biopsies followed by the colposcopy or biopsy of the small site in the cervix (less than 1cm) are safe compared to the curettage of the cervical canal during pregnancy, which increases the risk of excessive bleeding or abortion.
Cervical Cancer Treatment During Pregnancy: Balancing Care for Two
The cervical cancer treatment during pregnancy will depend on the stage and trimester in which the individuals are diagnosed with cervical cancer during pregnancy. Some of the treatment options for cervical cancer during pregnancy are given below:
- Stage 1 cervical cancer in 1st trimester: If you are diagnosed with stage 1 type of cervical cancer in your first trimester, your doctor will advise you to delay the treatment after the pregnancy, or you may advised to do a cesarean section (around 37 weeks) along with the hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus and cervix).
- Advanced stage of cervical cancer in 1st trimester: If you have an advanced cervical stage of cancer in the 1st trimester of the pregnancy, your doctor may advise you to treat it as soon as possible. Hysterectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy are effective in treating cervical cancer but may cause harm to the unborn baby in the uterus.
- Stage 1 cervical cancer in 2nd or 3rd trimester: Individuals with stage 1 type of cervical cancer in the 2nd or 3rd trimester can be treated with cold knife conization or radical trachelectomy (radical cervicectomy) followed by the cervical cerclage (cervical stitch) to remove the cervical cancer by allowing the uterus closed during pregnancy. You can also be advised to go for a cesarean section and treat the cervical cancer after the delivery.
- Stage 2, 3, or 4 cervical cancer in 2nd or 3rd trimester: If you are diagnosed with stage 2, 3, or 4 types of cervical cancer in the 2nd or 3rd trimester, your doctor will treat you with chemotherapy medicines to treat the disease. Drugs like cisplatin or carboplatin and paclitaxel are used in the treatment of cervical cancer during pregnancy. You may also be advised to do a cesarean section and can continue with other treatments for cervical cancer.
Always remember that your doctor will recommend the best treatment option based on your medical condition and the stage of cervical cancer. It is also recommended to speak with your doctor about the potential side effects and opportunities in the treatment of cervical cancer during pregnancy.
Can cervical cancer treatment cause miscarriage?
No, cervical cancer treatment may vary based on the stage and trimester of the pregnant women diagnosed. If you are diagnosed at an early stage, you may be advised to go for an early cesarean section (around 37 weeks) along with the hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus and cervix). Your healthcare provider will suggest the best option to protect the baby and treat cervical cancer in the best possible way.
How do we differentiate the symptoms of cervical cancer and preeclampsia (pregnancy complication?
It is often difficult to differentiate cervical cancer and preeclampsia due to the similarities between the symptoms. Engaging with your doctor and sharing the signs and symptoms during the maternity period will help to reduce the risk of cervical cancer. Genetic testing, such as HPV-DNA testing, can also be helpful to detect cervical cancer during pregnancy.
Can I take chemotherapy to treat cervical cancer during pregnancy?
Chemotherapy medicines, such as cisplatin or carboplatin and paclitaxel, are effective in treating cervical cancer. However, this medication has not been given to expectant mothers, and it should only be used when the projected advantages outweigh any possible hazards to the fetus. Consult your doctor for further details before treatment.
Motherhood is a gift to women. We should embrace it with all our heart and care. Individuals with cervical cancer during pregnancy need dual care to protect both the mother and the unborn baby. For that, every woman needs to take a brave step to diagnose and treat cervical cancer in a safer way that protects the baby. Proper diagnostic methods and treatment plans can help the mother to overcome cervical cancer during the maternity period. Even Though it is hard to find the symptoms of cervical cancer due to the similarity with pregnancy complications, we can avoid it by proper health check-ups and diagnosing methods. Let's protect the child and the child-bearer against cervical cancer.