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Pregnancy and cancer are words you don't expect to read in the same sentence, and indeed, it's a relatively rare occurrence. Cervical cancer is the most common malignancy affecting pregnant and postpartum women, occurring in about one in every two thousand pregnancies. Fortunately, pregnancy doesn't accelerate the progression of the disease, and when caught early, cervical cancer is readily treatable (see Cervical cancer: "preventable and curable.")

The standard treatment for cervical cancer, however, is hyster-ectomy or radiation therapy - treatments incompatible with carrying a baby. Pregnant women have tough decisions to make.

Hampton and Lopez were given the option of terminating their pregnancies, but both, because of religious convictions, opted not to.

"There is little evidence that delaying treatment until after pregnancy worsens survival for early cervical cancer," says John Dalrymple, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UC Davis Medical Center and the gynecologic oncologist who treated the women. "The cancer seems to remain stable. Ultimately, it's the woman's decision."

Once they made their decision, they faced a race against time. A pregnant woman facing cancer needs a team of specialists involved in her care. The goal is to maintain the mother's health and induce labor as early as possible so that the woman can begin cancer treatment in this case, a radical hysterectomy.


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