Staying Hopeful Through Cancer
- Brooke Wyse, from Indiana, was diagnosed with cervical cancer when she was 20 weeks pregnant. Now the mom of three to her 2-year-old son, 7-year-old daughter, and 17-year-old stepson, is sharing her story and ‘hope’ for others.
- Wyse gave birth to her healthy “miracle” baby, Karson James. She had her son through a Cesarean (C) section when she was 37 weeks pregnant.
- Cervical cancer is usually detected through a routine Pap smear.
- During this test, your doctor will collect a sample of cells from your cervix (using a small brush or spatula). The cells are then examined under a microscope for abnormalities, including cancer and changes that could indicate pre-cancer.
- Getting screened for cervical cancer is critically important because an earlier diagnosis may mean a better prognosis and broader treatment options. Screening for cervical cancer is done via pap smear and HPV DNA testing, which is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the best screening option for cervical cancer. Cervical cancer treatments may include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
Now, two years after beating the disease, Brooke Wyse, a mom to her 2-year-old son, 7-year-old daughter, and 17-year-old stepson, is sharing her story to encourage other women to stay hopeful through cancer.Read More
Wyse admitted it was “pretty terrifying” to receive her cancer diagnosis while pregnant, especially because she had suffered a miscarriage a few months back.
“I had already suffered a lot, so my first thought wasn’t even about me or my life really, it was more about my child and would I be able to continue to carry that child,” Wyse explained to WANE15. “So that was probably the hardest part of all.”
Wyse was able to beat cervical cancer by having surgery to remove the parts of the cervix that were deemed cancerous through a cone biopsy.
She also underwent four rounds of chemotherapy during her pregnancy.
Despite her concerns, Wyse gave birth to her healthy “miracle” baby, Karson James. She had her son through a Cesarean (C) section when she was 37 weeks pregnant.
And three months after giving birth, the cancer warrior had a radical hysterectomy, which involved removing her uterus, cervix, and part of her vagina, along with tissues and ligaments surrounding the organs.
Wyse who has been cancer free since January 29, 2021, is now urging others to get screened and stay positive throughout a cancer diagnosis.
“I want women out there to know that there is hope. There is support out there,” Wyse said. “Every step is exciting for me, I’m here, here for my family and my kids, so every year counts.”
Understanding Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer begins in the cells lining the cervix – the lower part of the womb (uterus). Treatment options for cervical cancer include surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
The American Cancer Society estimates that the United States will see about 13,960 new cases of invasive cervical cancer in 2023. Cervical cancer screening is critically important because an earlier diagnosis can mean a better prognosis with broader treatment options.
The American Cancer Society recommends that cervical cancer screening begins at age 25, and people aged 25 to 65 should have a primary HPV test, an HPV test done by itself for screening, every 5 years. If primary HPV testing is not available, however, screening may be done with either a co-test that combines an HPV test with a Papanicolaou (Pap) test every 5 years or a Pap test alone every 3 years.
Getting screened for cervical cancer is critically important because an earlier diagnosis may mean a better prognosis and broader treatment options. Screening for cervical cancer is done via pap smear and HPV DNA testing, which is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the best screening option for cervical cancer. Cervical cancer treatments may include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
Related: Farewell to the Pap Smear? World Health Organization Recommends HPV DNA Test As Best Screening Option for Cervical Cancer
The most common symptoms of cervical cancer can include:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as bleeding after vaginal sex, bleeding after menopause, bleeding and spotting between periods, or having (menstrual) periods that are longer or heavier than usual. Bleeding after douching may also occur.
- An unusual discharge from the vagina − the discharge may contain some blood and may occur between your periods or after menopause.
- Pain during sex.
- Pain in the pelvic region.
Should I Give My Kids the HPV Vaccine? A Leading Doctor On Why She Says “Yes!”
The Importance of Pap Smears
Pap smears are one way to detect cervical cancer early. During the test, a doctor will collect a sample of cells from your cervix (using a small brush or spatula). The cells are then examined under a microscope for abnormalities, including cancer and changes that could indicate pre-cancer. This is an important procedure because symptoms of cervical cancer might show up until the disease is at stage 3 or 4. By helping doctors catch signs of the disease early, Pap smears can lead to broader and more effective treatment options.
One of the leading causes of cervical cancer is the human papillomavirus (HPV) — one of the most common viruses which can be transmitted through sexual contact. HPV is the biggest risk factor for cervical cancer, and there are usually no early signs or symptoms of the disease. However, cervical cancer can be detected through regular check-ups, such as Pap smears.
More than 70% of cervical cancers are caused by HPV, but other cancers are also linked to the virus, such as throat cancer. Luckily, the HPV vaccine can help prevent 90% of those cancers.
Preventing Cervical Cancer
One way to significantly decrease your risk of developing cervical cancer is to get the HPV vaccine.
In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Dr. Jessica Geiger, a medical oncologist at Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center, explains the importance of the HPV vaccine as prevention against cervical cancer. She says, “We recommend strongly that children are vaccinated against HPV to prevent cervical cancer, but also to prevent head and neck cancer.”
“HPV is spread through sexual contact,” says Dr. Geiger. “Now the key with the vaccine is that you received the vaccine before you ever reach sexual debut or have sexual encounters. So that’s why these vaccines are approved for young children ages 9, 10, 11 years old, up to 26.”
“HPV is a virus that’s actually very well spread throughout Western society,” she says. “Fortunately, for the majority of us, over 90%, we clear the virus without ever knowing that we were exposed.”
Why the HPV Vaccine is so Important in Preventing Cancer
New Hope for Patients With Cervical Cancer
Back in 2021, a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that patients with persistent, recurrent, or metastatic cervical cancer lived longer when pembrolizumab (brand name: Keytruda), a form of immunotherapy, was added to the standard treatment regimen of chemotherapy.
Dr. Dana Chase, a gynecologic oncologist with the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, explained to SurvivorNet the importance of this news, saying, “Treatment outcomes are improved in metastatic or recurrent cervical cancer when immunotherapy is added to standard of care.”
This was a groundbreaking discovery for people battling cervical cancer, and Dr. Bobbie J. Rimel, an assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute, whose area of focus is gynecologic oncology, agrees.
“This study is exciting for sure and means for some patients there will be a significant improvement in their longevity by the addition of pembrolizumab to the three-drug combination we have been using,” Dr. Rimel tells SurvivorNet. The three-drug combination, she says, is, “Carboplatin/taxol/bevacizumab, the regimen standard of care from GOG 240.”
Pembrolizumab is a PD-1 inhibitor given by IV. Other PD-1 inhibitors include Nivolumab (Opdivo) and Cemiplimab (Libtayo). These three drugs have been effective in treating several different types of cancers, says the American Cancer Society (ACS). Some cancers treated by PD-1 inhibitors include non-small cell lung cancer and Merkel cell carcinoma.
Preserving Fertility After a Cancer Diagnosis
For many women diagnosed with cancer, the question of whether a pregnancy is still possible is at the front of their minds.
“When a woman is diagnosed with cancer in her childbearing years, fertility preservation should be a part of the conversation, like it’s part of the treatment plan,” Dr. Jaime Knopman, a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist with years of experience treating couples and individuals experiencing infertility, told SurvivorNet in an earlier interview. “Everyone in their reproductive years should be advised of their options.”
Freezing Eggs Or Embryos: What Should I Do?
Dr. Knopman previously explained. “Women who go on to get pregnant after having a diagnosis of cancer do not seem to have a higher rate of recurrence than women who did not have a pregnancy.
“They sometimes call this the healthy mother effect, meaning if you were healthy enough to go on to get pregnant, then you may have not been in the same situation as someone who is not as healthy and couldn’t go on to get pregnant,” she added.
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff
Learn more about SurvivorNet's rigorous medical review process.