Cancer is a hellacious disease that you may encounter any stage of your life, and pregnancy is no exception. The moment of being diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy can be a rude awakening. However, you don’t need to be startled and get depressed with this news as you can combat it.
According to studies, cancer during pregnancy is rare; however, researchers expect that the number of women with cancer during pregnancy can rise in future as they choose an older age to have children.
When it comes to cancer treatments, only those treatments are recommended that are safe for a foetus. With careful monitoring and effective treatments, you can give birth to a healthy baby.
How to Diagnose Cancer?
Nausea, bloating, fatigue and vomiting are the common symptoms of pregnancy. However, if these symptoms continue to sustain for a long time, you should have it checked as you might have cancer. In fact, pregnancy can reveal it earlier than it would otherwise have been found. For instance, a pep test can detect cervical cancer, or an ultrasound can find ovarian cancer. However, if these cancers are advanced, doctors may suggest termination of pregnancy. However, your pregnancy can survive if you’ve breast cancer.
Cancer Treatment During Pregnancy
Before deciding on the treatment, your obstetrician will consider the age of foetus, foetus maturity and expected delivery date. The treatment options for a pregnant woman with cancer are the same as those of the non-pregnant woman with cancer, but the way and the time for treatment is changed.
The type of treatment depends upon the factors such as the type of cancer, its location, stage, and how old a foetus is. Some cancer treatments can be given at the same time without damaging your foetus. However, some treatments start until parturition.
For instance, if you’ve breast cancer, breast surgery is safe during pregnancy. It may involve mastectomy or the removal of cancerous part only (breast-conserving surgery). BCS is not applicable if cancer is diagnosed in early stages because it requires radiation that could affect the health of your baby. In that case, mastectomy is a better option. However, if you’re diagnosed with cancer in the third semester, doctors can wait for radiation unless you give birth to a child. In some situation, your gynaecologist and obstetrician may require you discuss termination to start with immediate treatment.
Therapies Effect on a Foetus
Chemotherapy is an anticancer drug that is taken orally and travels throughout the blood and kills cancer cells, but this affects the health of a foetus, especially during the first trimester as the organs are not fully developed. Some chemotherapy drugs are not recommended in second and third trimester as it may cause early labour and low birth weight.
Similarly, radiation therapies are also detrimental to the health of a foetus. It can cause severe side effects such as whooping cough, dehydration, breath shortness, sore mouth, nausea, diarrhoea, rectal bleeding incontinence etc. these side effects will have severe ruinous effects to your foetus.
Is Breastfeeding Safe?
Lactation is not suggested if you’ve already gone through chemotherapy or radiation as their substances can enter your baby through milk. Otherwise, you can. However, if you’re about to be treated for breast cancer, doctors will suggest you to stop breastfeeding to prevent the risk of infection in the breast.