Cervical cancer survivor becomes a mother, thanks to fertility-sparing treatment
After being diagnosed with stage IB cervical cancer in October 2012, Allison Pozzi consulted four different specialists near her San Francisco Bay home. Every one of them said she needed a hysterectomy, which would’ve prevented the 35-year-old from ever becoming pregnant.
“My husband and I were newlyweds — and I’d had a miscarriage shortly before my diagnosis — so it was incredibly hard to think that this experience was being taken away from us,” Allison says. “We couldn’t believe these hospital systems couldn’t come up with anything better. With me being so healthy and the tumor being so small, it just didn’t seem possible that such an aggressive measure could be the only option.”
Fifth opinion leads to MD Anderson
Then Allison got a tip from another cervical cancer survivor, who recommended she reach out to Pedro Ramirez, M.D., at MD Anderson. Ramirez called Allison back within a few hours. He told her that a hysterectomy probably wasn’t necessary and that he and MD Anderson were well-versed in less-invasive options with successful outcomes.
“I already had four experts’ opinions, but I didn’t like what they were saying,” Allison says. “With Dr. Ramirez, we finally got the opportunity we wanted with the experience we trusted.”
A fertility-sparing cervical cancer treatment
Allison’s faith in Ramirez was reinforced when she met him in person. After completing his examination, Ramirez recommended only a trachelectomy, a surgical procedure in which most of the cervix is removed. The edges of the uterus are then pulled together and sutured with a purse-string stitch.
Allison would still be able to menstruate, but her uterus would remain cinched closed. That meant she could carry a baby to term if she ever conceived. And that was all Allison needed to hear. Ramirez performed her robot-assisted trachelectomy on Nov. 19, 2012.
“At some point, you have to decide the right treatment for you,” Allison says. “And sometimes, that means thinking beyond local opinions. You can’t defer to a physician just because he or she is a professional. All doctors have different perspectives and their own preferred solutions, even in different parts of the country. So explore all your options and do what feels right.”
Starting a family after cervical cancer treatment
Trusting her intuition paid off. Allison has been cancer-free since 2012. And on Jan. 3, 2017, she gave birth to her first child, a son named Carlo, by C-section.
“It was challenging to become pregnant after my surgery, but after multiple rounds of IVF, we were blessed with our son,” Allison says. “If it hadn’t been for Dr. Ramirez and MD Anderson, we wouldn’t have been able to realize our family dream in that way.”
The couple was so grateful that they gave their son the middle name, “Tex.”
“It’s an acknowledgement of our experience at MD Anderson and everything Dr. Ramirez has done for us,” Allison says.
An advocate for the HPV vaccine
When Carlo is older, Allison will tell him her cancer story. She hopes that by then, cervical cancer will be much less common, since there’s a vaccine available for the same human papillomavirus (HPV) that caused hers.
The HPV vaccine actually protects against several types of cancer affecting both men and women, so Allison plans to have Carlo immunized once he’s old enough.
“Why wouldn’t you vaccinate your children to protect them from avoidable suffering?” Allison says.