One in 1,000 women are diagnosed with cancer while pregnant. Michelle Cohen, 32, was one of those women.
Cohen was in the second trimester of her pregnancy when she was told she had ovarian cancer.
She and her husband, Josh, found out they were pregnant in August of 2017 after trying to conceive for several months.
But in December of 2017, Cohen began experiencing intense pain on the lower left side of her abdomen.
After a suspicious sonogram, Cohen’s doctor found a large mass near her left ovary. After two weeks simply monitoring her pain at home, Cohen again experienced intense pain. Tests showed the mass on her ovary was twice as big and had tripled in volume.
At 26 weeks pregnant, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Her team of doctors at Northwell Health swiftly took action.
Cohen had her left ovary removed and then had several rounds of chemo — all while pregnant. Her baby was closely monitored throughout the pregnancy, and especially so during her surgery.
“The biggest fear wasn’t really for me. It was more about him and making sure he would be fine. I knew that I had to be here for him so I had to do everything possible,” Cohen said.
In April of 2018, at 37 weeks gestation, she delivered her baby boy, Franklin, via a C-section. All the worry Cohen and her husband had over their child’s health dissipated.
“When we saw all the hair, my husband, the first thing he said was, like, ‘He’s a fighter. He didn’t have any effects,'” Cohen said.
After giving birth, Cohen underwent four more cycles of chemotherapy, as well as a robotic laparoscopic hysterectomy.
Her cancer is now in remission.
Northwell Health Cancer Institute opened a new Center for Cancer, Pregnancy and Reproduction to support pregnant women with cancer, located on Long Island. It will help women like Cohen immensely, and Cohen helped introduce the new facility at a press conference.
Treating cancer during pregnancy is complex. Cohen had more than 50 specialists weighing in on her and her baby’s care throughout her diagnosis. The Center for Cancer, Pregnancy and Reproduction provides specialists in areas like maternal fetal medicine (for high-risk pregnancies), gynecologic oncology, hematology and medical oncology, radiology, neonatology, and reproductive endocrinology and fertility. The specialists share recommendations and findings with each other, so that the patient’s entire team is on the same page in regards to treatment and care. Because of this, treatment is highly personalized and thorough.
The center expects to treat between 40 to 50 pregnant women per year. They will also be a resource for women who want to preserve their fertility before undergoing any sort of cancer treatment.
In addition, each patient has a personal nurse navigator that will be the point of contact for coordinating care between specialists so that the patient doesn’t have to worry about juggling appointments.
The center is also keeping tabs on mom and baby for years to come, in order to track any effects that mom’s treatment could have on her baby. This is especially promising because there is little research on this at this point in time, and a national registry will hugely beneficial.
Learn more in the video below.
C. Dixon likes to read, sing, eat, drink, write, and other verbs. She enjoys cavorting around the country to visit loved ones and experience new places, but especially likes to be at home with her husband, son, and dog.