Cancer during Pregnancy - Diagnosis, Effect on Fetus, Treatment and more
Created by Chayanika Sen Updated on Nov 30, 2020
While pregnant with cancer is quite uncommon, it is on the rise in the present times primarily because of women going for child-bearing at quite a late age. One in thousand pregnant women may suffer from cancer during pregnancy ranging from cervix cancer to ovarian cancer.
While there are numerous cancers that can afflict a woman while pregnant, breast cancer is the most common cancer, which may create complications in pregnancy. Breast cancer while pregnant is quite common and is said to affect around one in three thousand expecting ladies.
Diagnosing Cancer During Pregnancy ?
Diagnosis of cancer may be delayed while pregnant. A host of cancer symptoms like frequent headaches, rectal bleeding, breast changes, bloating are quite common occurrences once pregnancy.
On the other hand, it has so happened that many times a cancer has been detected while the pregnancy scans. Sonography or Pap test conducted as standard pregnancy tests may be indicative of ovarian or cervical cancers respectively.
Computed tomography scans, X-rays, Magnetic resonance imaging, biopsy and ultrasounds are generally considered safe in pregnancy and may be used efficiently for diagnosis of cancer in pregnant women.
Can Treating Pregnancy with Cancer affect Foetus?
The simple answer to this question is no. And while in the past treating cancer during pregnancy was not considered safe as such, however, with changing times, healthy pregnancy and cancer treatment do go well hand-in-hand, with few precautions of course.
However, beliefs have changed with progressing times. It is now believed that cancer treatment does not harm the baby, who is nestling safe inside the mother's womb barring a few stringent and strong treatments, which might not be pregnancy compatible.
Cancer itself is not known to affect the baby directly. Exhaustive research done in the present times regarding strong drugs used to treat cancer and pre-natal exposure to chemotherapy post first trimester are quite acceptable and are bearing positive results for pregnant women.
What Is The Treatment For Cancer while Pregnant
Treatment for cancer when pregnant is dependent on factors like gestational age of the expected baby, tumour type, size of the tumour, location, extent to which it has spread, how fast it is growing, etc.
Depending on these factors your doctor may decide to proceed with surgery, chemotherapy or any other treatment they deem fit. Chemotherapy is also considered safe but it is avoided during the first trimester, which is the time when the foetal organs are forming. The procedure may be continued safely during the mid-stages of pregnancy but is discontinued a few weeks before delivery.
It is also important to note that surgery is quite a safe option and general anaesthesia does not harm the growing foetus in any way. Medication is so planned so as to avoid pills which are known to cause birth defects and only those medicines are used which have been declared as being safe for consumption in pregnancy.
Radiation therapy, consisting of use of high energy x-rays for destroying cancerous cells, is generally not used during pregnancy as it may harm the fetus during all trimesters.
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