The seriousness associated with cervical cancer is grave enough to question the possibility of becoming fertile enough to bear a child and deliver it alive. Reliable sources referred to in this regard have by far related that it all depends on what stage of cervical cancer one is in. This statement is enough to suggest that an advanced stage requiring the removal of the womb or continuous radiotherapy as part of the cancer treatment may drastically impact one’s uterus to the point of failing the ovaries.
Nevertheless, this article intends to dig further into the facts surrounding cervical cancer and how it affects female fertility. It ultimately seeks to evaluate the possibilities of pregnancy in women who have developed in detail.
Cervical Cancer – Signs, Symptoms, and Causes
- What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer refers to the growth of abnormal/cancerous cells that start from the cervix. Being a part of the reproductive system in women, the cervix lies at the lower part of the uterus and is an interface between the uterus and the vagina, connecting to both of them at either of its ends. From an anatomic standpoint, it can also be stated that the cervix connects the vagina to the upper part of the uterus.
- What Causes Cervical Cancer?
It has been noted that cervical cancer mostly affects people in their 30s. Among the various causes leading to this disease, the human papillomavirus (HPV) has been identified to be a potential risk factor. A virus that generally passes from person to person via sexual contact can subsequently develop into cancer.
Avoiding such sexually transmitted diseases is key to preventing cervical cancer from developing. If at all, one suspects contracting HPV, early screening and diagnosis would be appropriate to prevent further progression of the disease.
The fact that almost all cervical cancers find HPV as the root cause, this risk is further aggravated by smoking and tobacco usage.
- Signs and Symptoms
Though it is felt appropriate to get an early screening for cervical cancer, many people tend to miss out on this aspect until they start experiencing symptoms, such as bleeding or abnormal discharge from the vagina. Bleeding after having sex is a sure-shot sign that conveys cervical cancer. Unfortunately again, by the time these signs and symptoms emerge, cervical cancer reaches its peak, causing enough damage to the uterus, the fallopian tubes, and ovaries to the point of needing them to be removed.
Of note, these are enough to suggest that the chances of pregnancy are nil. The only way to get rid of these and many other complications related to cervical cancer is to get an early screening and confirmation. If results are positive, fertility-sparing treatments, such as conization or radical hysterectomy, or whichever is felt best for one will be appropriate.
Once screened in time, one can doubtlessly prevent cervical cancer from advancing. This will also require routine check-ups/follow-ups to ensure that the cancer is staying within control. Regular screenings with Pap and HPV tests can help detect the presence of precancers, which will be accordingly followed by appropriate treatment administration to prevent the risk of being converted to cancer.
Possibilities of Conception After Being Diagnosed With Cervical Cancer
Pregnancy or fertility gets affected if cervical cancer mandates a surgical procedure. This may involve the removal of the cervix (either in part or completely). As stated above, depending on the cancer spread, conization, trachelectomy, or radical hysterectomy may be recommended by one’s physician. The post-surgical scars resulting from these procedures may or may not affect one’s potential to stay fertile.
However, these depend on individual specifications and the extent to which the cancer has developed. Ideally or technically speaking, the blockage due to the scar tissue formation at the site of the surgery (probably in the cervix) can prevent sperm from entering the uterus to fertilize the egg thereon. While these facts may incite fear in those who are especially concerned with fertility, it would be important for them to understand that unless the cancer has not advanced to a stage where the uterus along with its peripherals needs to be removed, the chances of becoming pregnant are still positive.
However, conceiving will not be by natural means and will require assisted reproductive techniques like an IUI (intrauterine insemination) or IVF (in-vitro fertilization) to inject the sperm directly into the uterus. This will be carried out through a small catheter inserted via the vagina. As if the risks do not merely end with chances of staying fertile, these extend to the fear of suffering miscarriages or premature birth owing to the thinning of the cervix due to cervical insufficiency. Of note, this may cause the cervix to open much earlier than normal.
How Does Cervical Cancer Affect Chances for Pregnancy?
It could be assumed from the statements made in the previous section that the possibilities of conception after being diagnosed with cervical cancer depend on the stage at which cancer presents (IA1, IA2, IB1, and IB2 tumors) and the nature of the treatment rendered, i.e., whether surgery, medications, or chemotherapy/radiation.
Procedures In Treating Cervical Cancer
Going further, it has been deemed appropriate to understand the different procedures involved in surgically treating cervical cancer if it has reached its advanced stage. These include:
- Conization: A portion of the cervix is removed.
- Simple Trachelectomy: Involves an extensive removal of the cervix.
- Radical Trachelectomy: Complete removal of the cervix with the surrounding tissues, though leaving the uterus intact.
Since these procedures greatly involve the cervix, it has become hard to determine their efficacy in protecting pregnancy, especially due to cervical insufficiency caused due to the thinning of the cervix. Though other treatment modalities, such as medications, chemotherapy-cum-radiation may help, their chances to affect the cervix are high enough to pose risks in pregnancy, especially owing to factors such as lymph node spread and the tumor/cancer size).
Revisiting the aforementioned procedures and their likely impact on the cervix, there is a possibility of abortion/miscarriage and premature birth. As such, this will necessitate further proceedings and bedrest till the due date. This will help as long as a woman is keen on saving her baby. Nonetheless, a cesarean section would be safe in this case.
The possibility of conception and pregnancy in women diagnosed with cervical cancer is accompanied by significant risk factors, one of them being cervical insufficiency, causing the thinning of the cervical muscles. While miscarriage is imminent in such cases, internal stitching can prevent this from happening.
However, one cannot be sure if this may help hold the growing baby. Bed rest till delivery would be a better option than delivery through cesarean section. Since the advanced stage may require more extensive procedures, such as a hysterectomy, it will not be safe to consider pregnancy.
This is different in the early stage case, where regular screening can be carried out to ascertain whether this is within control. This should be, however, followed by fertility-sparing treatment. The above-mentioned facts are sufficient enough to answer the topic question, “Can you get pregnant after having cervical cancer?” in a positive tone, “Yes, it is”, provided that one is in the early stage.