Cancer Screening and Family Planning

Cancer is never easy to consider. And when addressing cancer of the reproductive system, women can face additional stresses. Many cancer symptoms mask themselves as normal parts of the menstrual cycle or even pregnancy. As such, working with a care team to vigilantly monitor for trouble is crucial for women.

That is where we can help. Somerset Gynecology and Obstetrics is conveniently located in Troy, Michigan, west of The Somerset Collection. Our full team always works together to prioritize every individual patient and their family’s needs. We strive to create an office environment that helps to build long-term relationships, allowing us to help patients recognize distressing symptoms sooner. Additionally, we utilize laser and robotic-based surgical care options as needed. Our team, our services, and our tools combine to create a diverse and well-rounded work environment - with you and your health at the central focus of it all.

To discuss your care needs and schedule an appointment at our office, please contact us online or at (248) 816-9200.

 

FAQs on Cancer screening and Family Planning:

What Do Women Need to Know about Breast Cancer Screenings?

While any gynecological visit may include a physical breast exam, current recommendations state women who are 50 to 74 years old - and are at an average risk for breast cancer - should also get a mammogram (i.e. an x-ray of the breasts) every two years. At this time, mammogram screenings are the best method for detecting breast cancer; and a regular screening schedule allows more cancers to be caught early, even before a patient can detect symptoms. This allows earlier and more effective treatments overall. If you are in your 40s, you should talk to your doctor about your screening needs.

How Does Breast Cancer Affect Family Planning?

Some studies have linked hormonal family planning tools (i.e. hormonal contraceptives and birth control) to an elevated risk of breast cancer. However, experts also note that this elevated risk is minimal. Additionally, a woman’s risk goes back to “normal” after she stops using hormone-based contraceptives. With that in mind, experts also recommend that women over age 40, or who have an elevated risk of breast cancer in general (i.e. family history, medical history, etc.), discuss non-hormonal family planning options with their doctor.

How Does Breast Cancer Affect Pregnancy?

Pregnant women diagnosed with breast cancer will need to know all of their treatment options prior to making medical decisions. Treatment recommendations will primarily depend on the size and location of a cancerous growth, although the health of the mother - and how far along she is in her pregnancy - will also need to be considered.

In general, surgery for cancer while pregnant is considered safe. Chemotherapy in the second and third trimesters is also generally safe (while chemo during the first trimester is not). However, hormone and targeted therapies, as well as radiation therapy, are more likely to harm a developing baby. As such, they are not usually given during pregnancy.

Cancer treatment can be difficult in any situation. Because pregnancy can add additional stress to this situation, a counselor or psychologist should also be part of a care team to help provide emotional support and care.

What Do Women Need to Know about Ovarian Cancer Screenings?

Unlike breast cancer, there is no simple screening test and schedule for ovarian cancer at this time. Doctors can run a diagnostic test (ex. rectovaginal pelvic exam, a transvaginal ultrasound, or a CA-125 blood test) if a woman complains of any symptoms that could indicate ovarian cancer.

It is important to note that in its early stages, ovarian cancer is unlikely to cause symptoms. Because of this, women should report the following as soon as possible to confirm it's not due to an advancing case of ovarian cancer:

  • Abdominal bloating or swelling (not related to a normal menstrual cycle)
  • Quickly feeling full when eating
  • Weight loss
  • Discomfort in the pelvic area
  • Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
  • A frequent need to urinate

How Does Ovarian Cancer Affect Family Planning?

Combined hormonal birth control (i.e. estrogen/progesterone birth control) has been shown to reduce a woman's risk of ovarian cancer. Additionally, having one's tubes removed or undergoing tubal ligation also seems to help reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.

How Does Ovarian Cancer Affect Pregnancy?

It is rare to find an ovarian tumor or mass during pregnancy, and even rarer to find a malignant (cancerous) ovarian tumor during pregnancy. Additionally, treatment of and care for these rare cases is highly individualized. In general, if needed, surgery will be performed to remove a sample of a tumor for biopsy. (If needed, surgery during the second and third trimesters can also remove an ovary and fallopian tube affected by masses, without impacting a pregnancy.) If additional imaging tests are needed, x-rays and MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) are both considered safe for pregnant women.

Should chemotherapy be needed, it is only given in the second or third trimester - and, whenever possible, it's postponed until after birth. In the event that a cancer case is advanced, and treated is needed immediately, a counselor or psychologist should also be part of a care team to help provide emotional support and care.

What Do Women Need to Know about Colon Cancer Screenings?

Colon cancer screenings can be conducted through two primary types of tests. Some tests evaluate stool samples for signs of cancer, while others are done visually through a colonoscopy. Each test comes with its own pros and cons, which patients should discuss with their doctor before deciding which screening to undergo. Regularly scheduled colon cancer screening should begin at the age of 45.

How Does Colon Cancer Affect Family Planning?

More research is needed to explore colon cancer's interactions with family planning contraceptives. However, current evidence suggests that hormonal birth control may lower the risk of developing colon cancer, at least as long as a woman is taking birth control.

How Does Colon Cancer Affect Pregnancy?

Experts note that the risk of developing colon cancer during pregnancy is higher than it once was. This is because more women are postponing pregnancy until later in life. Unfortunately, many symptoms of colon cancer can also be symptoms related to pregnancy (ex. abdominal pain, constipation, vomiting, anemia, and rectal bleeding). It's important that mothers-to-be regularly check in with their doctors to see if an investigation of these symptoms is needed. If it is, endoscopy can be conducted during the second or third trimester. Should cancer be diagnosed, doctors will assess the cancer (i.e. stage, tumor mass, etc.) to ensure that any growths will not obstruct labor or delivery. Additional treatments can be recommended based on how effective they will be (as advanced cancers do not respond to surgery or chemotherapy as positively as earlier cancers). In general, surgery is safer to conduct prior to a fetus hitting the 20-week development marker. Chemotherapy is safer during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

Somerset Gynecology and Obstetrics is committed to providing every woman with every care option available to her. Contact us today to book your next appointment.