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A Future and a Family

Hanjani Institute for Gynecologic Oncology Helps Horsham Woman Realize Her Dreams

Beth Dougherty

April 2003. Beth Dougherty, 28, of Horsham, was finalizing wedding plans with her financee, Jim. The dental assistant had previously had laser and other procedures to address abnormal PAP tests, and thought that was all behind her.

Then she got the news. “There I was, getting ready to be married, and I was diagnosed with cervical cancer,” she says. “I had been looking forward to the future with my husband and having children one day.”

Beth’s gynecologist referred her to Mark S. Shahin, M.D., chief of Abington Memorial Hospital’s Hanjani Institute for Gynecologic Oncology. Dr. Shahin explains, “Beth had a very unusual type of cervical cancer called adenoid basal carcinoma. In the last ten years, she’s the only person I’ve seen with this cluster of microscopic cancer cells, which fortunately, tends to grow very slowly.”

The physicians at the Hanjani Institute are gynecologic surgeons with special training in surgical and medical oncology. They are board certified in obstetrics and gynecology, as well as in gynecologic oncology.

Their expertise is complemented by the belief that gynecologic cancer affects the total woman, and treatment must include careful and compassionate attention to emotional needs.  For Beth, it was especially important that she pursue options that might allow her to have children.

Dr. Shahin continues, “After the initial excision of cancerous cells, we decided to do a ‘cone biopsy’ to determine if there was leftover disease. This procedure removes just a portion of the cervix, and we found no evidence of further spread. Our goal was to preserve Beth’s uterus.”

Beth was placed on medical surveillance, with frequent checkups to ensure that no new lesions had developed. In August 2003, Dr. Shahin performed a procedure to break apart natural scar tissue that had developed over time.

The procedure worked. Beth and her husband were able to conceive in 2004.

Because of the cancer excision, she had a shorter cervix. Dr. Shahin worked with Abington Memorial Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist Dr. Marc F. Rosenn to perform an “abdominal cerclage.” Cerclage involves placing a strong cervical stitch to help the cervix remain closed during pregnancy, thereby decreasing the risk of miscarriage.

Beth was on bed rest for a good part of her pregnancy, but delivered her son at almost full term at Abington Memorial Hospital. “You just can’t imagine the joy,” she recalls fondly.

Dr. Shahin continued to monitor Beth’s gynecological health through the years after her son’s birth. “In women beyond childbearing years, we would have performed a hysterectomy, but Beth and her husband hoped to have one more child,” the specialist says.

With all of Beth’s cervical issues, getting pregnant again was a long shot. Dr. Shahin says, “By this time, she had developed cervical stenosis, or a narrowing of the cervix.

We were able to go in and dilate the cervix and determine that no new cancer was present. Once the cervix was dilated, she was able to conceive a second time.”

Beth adds, “Dr. Shahin is just wonderful. He cares so much. Because of his skills and his willingness to help women like me, I was able to add to my family one more time. “We now are the proud parents of a son, age five, and a baby daughter.”

For one family of four, dreams do come true.

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