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Cervical Cancer After Childbirth: Know the Postpartum Risk

Empower yourself against cervical cancer after childbirth. Discover essential insights, crucial info, and support for a resilient journey to recovery.

  • Cancer

By Shweta Kulshreshtha

26th Oct '23

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Did you know?

According to the WHO, cervical cancer is the among women worldwide. An estimated 60,4000 new cases were seen, and about 3,42,000 deaths were reported in 2020.  In India, cervical cancer ranks as the 2nd most common cancer among females.

Cervical cancer is one of the most common malignancies in pregnancy. It affects approximately 1 in every 1000 females during or after childbirth. About 1–3% of women diagnosed with cervical cancer are either pregnant or have just had their baby.

Is it possible to get cervical cancer after giving birth?

Yes, it is possible to get cervical cancer after childbirth. It can develop at any stage of a woman's life. Cervical cancer after childbirth or during pregnancy is also seen. Half of the cases are identified during pregnancy, and the remaining are found within the first year after birth.

Some of the common risk factors for developing cervical cancer are:

Regardless of your maternal status, these factors can play a role in the development of cervical cancer.

Is there a higher risk of cervical cancer recurrence after childbirth?

Childbirth itself does not increase cervical cancer recurrence, but certain factors related to pregnancy and childbirth may affect your risk. Let’s look at some of them:

Stage and extent of cancer: Early-stage cervical cancer has a lower recurrence risk than advanced-stage cancer.

Treatment effectiveness: If the treatment had earlier effectively eliminated all your cancerous cells, then the risk of recurrence is lower.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection: If you are exposed to high-risk strains of HPV after childbirth, it could increase the risk of recurrence.

According to the WHO, they are responsible for nearly 50% of high-grade cervical cancers.

Immune system: Pregnancy and childbirth weaken your immune system. If you have a weak immune system, you have a higher risk of cancer recurrence after childbirth.  Infections caused by HIV also weaken the immune system.

Studies show women with HIV have a six times higher risk of cervical cancer.

Lifestyle factors: Smoking is a risk factor for both the development of cervical cancer and its recurrence.

Are you concerned about whether you are being affected by this?

Don't worry, schedule your appointment today. and get the screening done promptly!

patient discussing about cervical cancer with doctor

Does giving birth increase the risk of cervical cancer?

No, childbirth does not cause cervical cancer. Also, it does not increase the risk of cervical cancer. However, having multiple full-term pregnancies is one of the risk factors for cervical cancer. 

The American Cancer Society found that multiple full-term pregnancies raise cervical cancer risk in women.

This could be due to the increased exposure to HPV infection through sexual activity.

Also, studies have shown that hormonal changes during pregnancy may make women more susceptible to HPV infection or cancer growth. When you are pregnant, your immune system becomes weaker, making you more susceptible to HPV infection and cancer growth. 

awareness of cervical cancer

Can pregnancy or childbirth affect the progression of cervical cancer?

Pregnancy and childbirth can impact cervical cancer, but it depends on the stage and circumstances.

Let's understand this better:

  • Delayed Diagnosis: Pregnancy can make it challenging to diagnose cervical cancer, as symptoms may be mistaken for pregnancy-related changes. This can lead to the cancer progressing to a more advanced stage.
  • Hormonal Changes: Pregnancy involves hormonal changes that can potentially affect the growth of cervical cancer cells. 
  • Treatment during pregnancy: Cervical cancer treatment during pregnancy may require modifications to protect the health of the mother and fetus.

Studies conducted in 2020, have shown that the administration of chemotherapy within 3 weeks of anticipated delivery is not recommended. This can harm the developing fetus and can cause miscarriage. 

Doctors advise against delaying treatment during pregnancy, especially if the diagnosis is made early. This is because the timeframe necessary for the fetus to reach maturity could allow the cancer to progress further. 

Alternatively, doctors recommend chemotherapy treatment during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. This study suggests that experts consider chemotherapy at this stage to be safe for the unborn fetus.

Postpartum Management: For treating your cervical cancer after childbirth, your doctors or specialists at IVF centers have more treatment options available. It may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these treatments.

cervical cancer treatment after childbirth

Can I breastfeed if I have had cervical cancer?

Yes, in most cases, you can breastfeed if you have had cervical cancer after childbirth. Cervical cancer and its treatments typically do not affect the ability to breastfeed. 

In some instances, doctors recommend delaying breastfeeding as treatment harms the baby via breastmilk.

However, individual circumstances may vary. Consult with your doctor or a hospital specialist about breastfeeding after cervical cancer to get personalized guidance based on your history and treatment, ensuring informed decision-making.

mother breastfeeding child

Can a C-section reduce the risk of cervical cancer?

No, a cesarean section (C-section) does not reduce the risk of cervical cancer.

A C-section may be recommended for various medical reasons during childbirth, but it is not a preventive measure against cervical cancer. Regular screenings, vaccinations, and healthy lifestyle choices are the most effective means of reducing the risk of cervical cancer.

If your cervical cancer is diagnosed during pregnancy, it should be further assessed with abdominal and pelvic ultrasound, MRI and lymphadenectomy. Sometimes, a c-section is recommended to avoid the recurrence of cancer.

Consult with your gynaecologist to make an informed decision.

Early Detection and Screening: A Beacon of Hope

Is cervical cancer curable?

Your cervical cancer is often curable, especially when it is detected at an early stage. The chances of your cure depend on the following factors:

Early Detection: Cervical cancer can often be cured if it is detected early. This can be done through regular screening tests like pap smears and HPV tests. These tests can detect precancerous changes in the cervix. It allows for early medical intervention.

Stage of cancer: The stage of cervical cancer at diagnosis is critical. The earlier the stage, the higher the chance of a cure.

Diagnosis of cervical cancer

Treatment Options: These can include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy, often used in combination. Surgery in the early stages can be curative.

Vaccination: Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines are effective in preventing the most common types of HPV that can lead to cervical cancer. Vaccination can significantly reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer.

If you are at risk of cervical cancer, have regular check-ups and screenings. Early detection and timely treatment can greatly improve your chances of a cure. 

What is the treatment for cervical cancer after childbirth?

The various treatment options for cervical cancer after childbirth are:

Surgery: Depending on the stage of the cancer and the patient's desire for future pregnancies, surgical options may include:

  • Cone biopsy (LEEP)
  • Radical hysterectomy
  • Pelvic exenteration

Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy may be used before or after surgery. It can also be the primary treatment for cervical cancer. 

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells or inhibit their growth. It may be used along with radiation therapy (chemoradiation). Used for advanced-stage cancer. 

Immunotherapy: Some cervical cancer patients may be eligible for immunotherapy. This treatment harnesses the body's immune system to target and destroy cancer cells.

Targeted Therapy: Targeted therapies are medications that specifically target the pathways involved in your cancer growth. It is used when your cancer is advanced or recurrent. 

Supportive care: This may include pain management, palliative care, and emotional support to help you cope with the physical and emotional challenges.

Can cervical cancer be prevented after giving birth?

Preventing cervical cancer after childbirth is possible. Look at some key steps on how you can reduce the risk of cervical cancer after childbirth:

Cervical Cancer Screening: Regular cervical cancer screenings, such as Pap smears and HPV tests, can detect abnormal changes in the cervix early. Continue these screenings to detect cervical cancer after childbirth.

HPV Vaccination: HPV vaccination is most effective when administered before exposure to the virus. Therefore, getting vaccinated against HPV before pregnancy or during early pregnancy can reduce your risk of HPV-related cervical cancer.

HPV vaccine

Safe Sexual Practices: Practicing safe sex can help reduce your risk of contracting HPV, which is a primary cause of cervical cancer. 

Limit the number of sexual partners: Reducing the number of sexual partners can lower the risk of exposure to HPV and other sexually transmitted infections. These contribute to cervical cancer.

Healthy lifestyle: maintaining a healthy lifestyle, stopping smoking, eating a balanced diet, and managing stress can support a strong immune system. This is crucial to fighting HPV infections and preventing cervical cancer.

These measures can reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer after childbirth. It's essential to continue with regular screenings and follow the guidance of your oncologist to monitor your cervical health.


 

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