Littleton mom treated for cancer during pregnancy has warning for others

Local News

LITTLETON, Colo. (KDVR) — Anna Spiessbach was pregnant when she noticed what looked like a cut on her tongue that wasn’t getting any better.

After a biopsy, the 33-year-old from Littleton was diagnosed with tongue cancer, and told that it had spread to her lymph nodes. “I was absolutely shocked,” she said.

It was a lot to take in, but all her providers at UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital worked together to come up with a treatment plan.

“With her at that age with a baby in her belly, and knowing that her cancer had already spread to some lymph nodes, we really wanted to get going as quickly as possible, but also as safely as possible,” said Tracy Johnson, a PA with the head and neck specialists at UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital.

Spiessbach worried about possible impacts on her baby, but also on her own speech, and she began recording herself.

“I wanted to be able to have my daughter hear me say ‘I love you’ and hear me read stories to her in my voice because I did not know what I would sound like after surgery,” Spiessbach said.

Thirty-three weeks into her pregnancy, Spiessbach had surgery to remove one-third of her tongue and 42 lymph nodes.

“The way we do it with the microscope and the laser is very precise,” Johnson said.

Then at 36 weeks, doctors induced labor, so that Spiessbach could get on with her treatment plan of chemotherapy and radiation.

She also had intensive speech therapy. “I think I sound pretty darn good,” she said.

As life is starting to turn around for Spiessbach, and she is enjoying time with her husband and baby girl, she has a message for others.

“This doesn’t just happen to older men who have been smoking and drinking their whole lives,” she said.

If someone has a sore in their mouth that is not healing, or if they have a mass on their neck, providers say they should always get it checked out.

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