Northwell opens new center for pregnant women with cancer

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Surrounded by her physicians, Michelle Cohen, her husband Josh Cohen, and their 7-month-old Franklin. Standing, from left to right, are Dr. Wendy Fried, gynecologist/obstetrician; Dr. Lisa Dos Santos, surgeon and gynecological oncologist; and Dr. Veena John, medical oncologist. (Photo courtesy of Northwell Health)

Northwell Health’s new Center for Cancer, Pregnancy and Reproduction to support pregnant women with cancer opened Wednesday.

The center is part of the Northwell Health Cancer Institute.

“Symptoms of cancer are often masked during pregnancy,” said Dr. Richard Barakat, physician-in-chief and director of the cancer institute. “Unlike cancer specialty centers, Northwell has all the experts readily available to help our patients in one health system to collaborate and provide all care. With our multidisciplinary approach, pregnant women have access to numerous physicians and other experts in 10 disciplines, if needed.”

About 0.1 percent of pregnant women are diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy every year, according to Northwell.

Michelle Cohen was diagnosed with ovarian cancer while 26 weeks pregnant.

Cohen, of East Norwich, had surgery at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset and soon had to begin chemotherapy.

Her doctor consulted with experts before performing the chemotherapy to ensure that it would not affect the baby.

“Everyone tells you how amazing it is the day your child is born,” Cohen said at a press conference Wednesday. “I didn’t quite understand it…but I felt instant love.”

The new center will support women before, during and after they give birth, according to Northwell.

“No other center exists in the New York area that can offer this scope of services with experts working seamlessly together,” Barakat said.

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