Good News After Cancer Scares for Hopeful Moms-to-Be

Loop electrosurgical excision procedures and cervical biopsies may not negatively affect women's fertility

(RxWiki News) Getting abnormal Pap smear results can be scary — a fear that is sometimes compounded by a fear that follow-up procedures may reduce fertility. New evidence suggests, however, that many women who undergo these procedures can expect joyful surprises later in life.

A recent study found that procedures used to diagnose and treat women who have abnormal Pap smears did not decrease women’s ability to become pregnant. In fact, women who had the treatment procedure were more likely to become pregnant in the future than untreated women.

“This is great news for the millions of women who have one of the procedures, but still want to have a family,” said study lead Allison L. Naleway, PhD, of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, in a press release.

Cervical cancer can be fatal, but it is highly treatable if it is detected early. Doctors screen for cervical cancer using Pap smears, in which cells are lightly scraped from the cervix and examined.

Women who have abnormal Pap results may undergo follow-up testing, in which a doctor takes more samples from the cervix.

If a precancerous lesion is found on the cervix, the doctor may perform a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) or cryotherapy — procedures used to remove abnormal tissue from the cervix.

This study investigated whether follow-up testing or these surgical treatments had an effect on women’s ability to become pregnant.

Dr. Naleway and team looked at health records for more than 4,000 women who had the cervical treatment procedures. They compared them to nearly 14,000 women who went through follow-up testing and more than 81,000 who did not have any additional cervical testing or treatment.

They found that 14 percent of the women who underwent LEEP or another procedure became pregnant during the 12-year study period.

Of the women who had follow-up testing, 11 percent became pregnant. Nine percent of the women who did not have a procedure became pregnant.

After taking factors like birth control and age into account, Dr. Naleway and team found that women in the treatment group were even more likely to become pregnant than women without follow-up testing or treatment.

“There was a fear that these procedures could weaken the cervix, and reduce fertility, but our study suggests that this is not the case,” Dr. Naleway said.

These researchers concluded that potentially lifesaving cervical testing and treatment had no negative effect on women's ability to become pregnant.

This study was published Feb. 11 in PLOS ONE.

GSK, which makes a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, funded this research. The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
February 11, 2015