Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers diagnosed during pregnancy. To diagnose the condition, a cervical biopsy, in which a small amount of tissue is removed for diagnosis, can be performed anytime during the pregnancy. However, a cone biopsy (conization), which removes larger amounts of tissue, is typically delayed until after the first trimester to reduce the risk of causing a miscarriage. Conization does increase the risk for preterm delivery and may increase this risk for future pregnancies. The loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP/LLETZ) may be performed in centers equipped to handle it, but should be reserved only for patients in whom invasive disease is strongly suspected.
HPV is estimated to be the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. In fact, by age 50 approximately 80% of women have been infected with some type of HPV . The majority of women infected with the HPV virus do NOT develop cervical cancer. For most women the HPV infection does not last long; 90% of HPV infections resolve on their own within 2 years. A small number of women do not clear the HPV virus and are considered to have “persistent infection. A woman with a persistent HPV infection is at greater risk of developing cervical cell abnormalities and cancer than a woman whose infection resolves on its own. Certain types of this virus are able to transform normal cervical cells into abnormal ones. In a small number of cases and usually over a long period of time (from several years to several decades), some of these abnormal cells may then develop into cervical cancer.