Cancer during pregnancy is not something that anyone wants to think about but it, unfortunately, does happen. Women can be diagnosed when they find out they're pregnant, or they may still want to have a family or find themselves unexpectedly pregnant after a cancer diagnosis. However cancer is discovered in a pregnant woman, it will begin an emotional and complicated time. Two events that should never be intertwined have collided.
The emotional whirlwind will be a lot to handle for the expectant mother. Dealing with all of the medical situations that come with battling an illness is the second challenge. The first is to stay emotionally healthy and keep a positive state of mind. Handling two very different life events will be difficult. The most important thing to do is what is best for you and your specific situation.
If any cancer is found, or known about entering into a pregnancy, it is important to determine the plan of treatment. This will vary from case to case but the most important thing is the health and safety of both the mother and baby. Things to be considered include the type of cancer, stage of pregnancy, and severity of the diagnosis. Treatment can include surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation treatment. If the pregnancy is in its later stages, treatment could possibly be delayed until after birth to keep the baby as healthy as possible.
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The mental wellbeing of a mother and her partner should also be a big focus. Support and education are most needed. A mother-to-be needs to be able to make informed choices and know all of her medical options while maintaining a clear head and open lines of communication with her closest friends and family.
Something to keep in mind is that cancer may have a better opportunity to be found during pregnancy. Pregnant women must undergo certain medical procedures that they wouldn't normally have. For example, a pap smear could spot cervical cancer and an ultrasound could possibly find early-stage ovarian cancer. This can be quite beneficial, as an early diagnosis is often very important in making a full recovery, especially in these two types of cancer.
Despite this, pregnancy can also mask cancer symptoms since they can be identical to pregnancy issues. Things like bloating, headaches, and changes in breast tissue all double as cancer signs and changes due to pregnancy. This isn't information isn't meant to scare you! But, it is important to keep an eye on your overall health and consult a physician if you notice any concerning symptoms.
Thankfully, a cancer diagnosis during pregnancy is quite rare. 1 in 1000 or 0.001% of pregnant women will receive a diagnosis while they are carrying a baby.
Pregnancy is often the happiest time in a woman's life. Adding a cancer diagnosis can be devastating and extremely stressful for an expecting mother. But medical technology available now gives these moms many options so that they can make informed decisions, and also have the hope of delivering a healthy baby.
Our thoughts are with anyone going through cancer.