Read on to comprehend more about how medical doctors diagnose and treat cancer during pregnancy.

How common is cancer during pregnancy?

Generally, cancer during pregnancy is an uncommon occurrence. Statistics show that about one in every thousand pregnant women are diagnosed with some type of cancer. However, experts expect the number of pregnant women with cancer disease to increase because more women are waiting until they’re older to have children. Risk of developing most cancers raises as your age.

Breast cancer is one of the most common kind of cancer that affects women during pregnancy. About one in every 3 thousands pregnant women will get this diagnosis.

What kinds of cancer are most common during pregnancy?

Some common cancers that are diagnosed during pregnancy involve:

  • Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma

  • Leukemia

  • Breast cancer

  • Ovarian cancer

  • Melanoma

  • Cervical cancer

  • Thyroid cancer

  • Colorectal cancer

Other kinds of cancer, like the brain, lungs, and bone cancer, can also occur during pregnancy, but they’re very rare.

Sometimes, some symptoms of cancer may overlap with pregnancy signs, which can delay diagnosis. Common signs of both pregnancy and some cancers include:


  • Fatigue

  • Headaches

  • Breast changes

  • Vomiting

  • Bloating

  • Nausea

  • Rectal bleeding

Diagnosis of cancer


If your medical doctor assumes cancer during pregnancy, you may need some tests to get a diagnosis. These tests include:

X-ray


An X-ray uses low doses of radiation to construct a sketch of the inside of your body. Experts have found the amount of radiation used in an X-ray isn’t high enough to harm unborn baby health. Pregnant women should wear a lead shield to surround their belly during an X-ray when feasible.

Computed tomography (CT) scan


A CT scan takes detailed sketches of your organs with an X-ray machine that’s hooked up to a computer machine. CT scans of the head or chest are generally safe to have during pregnancy. A compound tomography scan of the abdomen and pelvis should only be done during pregnancy if it’s absolutely necessary. You should also wear a lead shield during a CT scan of any part of the body.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

A Magnetic Resonance Imaging uses magnets and a computer to observe inside your body. It’s usually considered a secure test for pregnant women because it doesn’t use ionizing radiation.

Ultrasound

An ultrasound uses sound waves to create sketches of some areas in your body. It’s considered a safe and secure diagnostic test during pregnancy.

Biopsy

With a biopsy, medical doctors remove a sample of tissue to test for cancer in the medical laboratory. Biopsies are thought to be safe and secure methods for pregnant women.

Additional diagnostic tests and exams


Your medical doctor maybe wants to perform a physical exam and laboratory tests to provide more information about your health.
Occasionally, regular tests that are done during pregnancy can actually discover cancer earlier than it would have been found otherwise. For example, a Pap test can spot cervical cancer, and ultrasound can uncover ovarian cancer in its early phases.

Effects of cancer on pregnancy

In many situations, cancer will not result in the need to terminate your pregnancy. However, in some cases, you may have to deliver your baby earlier than programmed.
You and your medical healthcare team will need to debate on all the risks and benefits of managing your cancer and pregnancy. In addition to your OBGYN 'OB' stands for obstetrician 'GYN' stands for gynecologist  (a physician who delivers babies) specialist, you’ll also need to see an oncologist (the doctor who treats cancer). An oncologist is a medical doctor who treats cancer. You’ll likely have many more medical specialist (doctor) appointments than a pregnant woman without cancer.

Effects of cancer on the embryo

Specialists don’t know all the methods that cancer can affect an embryo (unborn baby). However it’s possible for some kinds of cancer to spread from the mother to the placenta, most cancers rarely have a direct effect on the unborn baby (fetus).
There have been very unusual cases of cancers such as melanoma or leukemia propagating from the placenta to the fetus. If this occurs, your medical doctor will discuss how to treat the unborn baby during pregnancy and once you deliver.
After you deliver your baby, your medical doctor will check for early symptoms of cancer. If your baby is healthy, they won’t require any additional treatments.
Some cancer therapies can harm an unborn baby. The risk for damage is more likely during the first ninety days of pregnancy, which is termed as the first trimester. During the time of the first trimester, an unborn baby’s organs and body structure are developing.

Effects of cancer on breastfeeding

If you choose to breastfeed your newborn baby while you have cancer, cancer cells won’t transfer from you to your newborn baby. Many women with cancer disease, or who have recovered from cancer disease, are capable to successfully breastfeed their newborn babies.
Some cancer treatments like chemotherapy can transfer through breastmilk to your newborn baby. That's why, if you’re receiving cancer treatment, you’ll likely be advised not to breastfeed your newborn baby. Discuss to your medical doctor about the risks and benefits involved.

Treating cancer while pregnant

Many years ago, medical doctors weren’t sure how to safely medicate cancer during pregnancy, and many recommended terminating the unborn baby (fetus). Now, more women are choosing to treat their illness while they’re pregnant.
You’ll need to discuss all the pros and cons of receiving cancer medications during your pregnancy with your medical doctor. Every condition is different.
Treatment elected for pregnant women with cancer is the same as medication choices for non-pregnant women with cancer. How and when treatments are given may be different for pregnant women.
Your treatment options will depend on many circumstances, including:
  • The stage of your cancer

  • Where your cancer is located

  • The type of cancer you have

  • Your personal choices

  • How far along you are in your pregnancy
Common treatments may include:

Surgery

Surgery is generally considered a secure and safe treatment option for mothers and unborn babies, especially after the first trimester of pregnancy. The type of surgery will depend on the kind of cancer. The goal of surgery is to extract cancerous tumors.

If you have breast cancer during pregnancy, surgery may disturb your ability to breastfeed your newborn baby if you have a mastectomy or radiation. Be satisfied to talk to your medical doctor about how surgery will harm breastfeeding if this is something you’re considering.

Chemotherapy and other treatments

Chemotherapy includes using toxic substances to destroy cancer in the body. Chemotherapy and other anticancer drugs can harm the unborn baby (fetus), lead to miscarriage, or cause birth defects, particularly if they’re used during the first trimester of pregnancy. Certain chemotherapies and other cancer-fighting medicines can safely be given during the second and third trimesters.

Radiotherapy

Radiations use high-energy X-rays or particles to kill cancer cells in your body. This therapy can damage an unborn baby, especially if it’s used during the first trimester. Sometimes, radiation can securely be used in the second or third trimesters of pregnancy, but this depends on the kind, dose, and part being treated.

Should you delay treatment?

You maybe choose to wait to start your treatment until the last trimester or even after the birth of your newborn baby. This is particularly common if the cancer is diagnosed later in pregnancy or if it’s a very early stage of cancer disease. Your medical doctor may be able to induce your labor early if essential.
Generally, pregnancy shouldn’t affect how well a cancer medication works, but delaying the treatment of cancer because of pregnancy may affect your outlook.

Outlook

While cancer during pregnancy is uncommon, it can and does happen to certain women. Generally, a pregnant woman with cancer has the alike outlook as a woman with cancer who isn’t pregnant.

Generally, being pregnant while having cancer shouldn’t harm your overall prognosis. If cancer isn’t found initially because of pregnancy, or you choose to delay treatment of cancer, this may harm your prognosis.

Discuss to your medical doctor about the best way to treat your cancer during pregnancy. Innumerable women go on to recover from cancer and have healthy newborn babies.