After learning she was pregnant with her first baby, Kelly, age 30, received startling news. A Pap smear performed by her obstetrician revealed high-grade precancerous cervical cancer cells. “It was a shock,” she said. “What’s going to happen to me and my baby?”
Kelly was referred to Mass General, where she was evaluated by Marcela G. del Carmen, MD, MPH, a gynecologic oncologist in the Vincent Department of OB/GYN. ”She determined I could carry safely to full term,” said Kelly. The baby was delivered vaginally with no complications, and Kelly and her husband, Ted, welcomed baby Elizabeth to their home in Reading, MA.
After Elizabeth’s birth, Kelly went in for a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP), in which tissue high in the cervical canal is removed and assessed. That’s when she got the diagnosis of cancer. But Kelly wanted another baby. Was that possible? The standard course for patients with cervical cancer is radical hysterectomy — removing the entire uterus. But Dr. del Carmen determined it was safe to preserve the uterus, instead removing only the cervix (radical trachelectomy). Available at only a few hospitals in the nation, this fertility-preserving alternative may be an option for select younger women with early cervical cancer.
Time was of the essence
Kelly was advised to get pregnant as soon as possible after healing from surgery, which she achieved three months later. But this was a very different pregnancy. Managed as a high-risk patient, she received an ultrasound every two weeks, drugs and bed rest to prevent premature labor, and the baby had to be delivered via C-section. It was a boy, whom the joyful parents named Teddy.
But new Pap tests showed Kelly had an early recurrence of her cervical cancer. She had a hysterectomy and underwent chemotherapy and radiation therapy. For the past four years, she has been cancer-free. “I’m living proof of what experienced doctors can do,” says Kelly. “My kids are miracle children.”