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Cancer During Pregnancy: Types & Treatment

16 February, 2021 Sanjana Patel

Cancer during Pregnancy is rare and highly uncommon, and sparsely affects the fetus or the child developing in the womb. As cancer, itself doesn’t harm the baby, but the treatment to eliminate cancer or to be precise cancer spreading cells can stand as a threat. Hence, the medication can cause complications to cure cancer when one's pregnant.

The whole process of getting diagnosed with cancer and the treatment can be very exhausting and overbearing, especially for a pregnant lady who is already bound to go through extreme physical and mental changes and transformations. The treatment of cancer is usually hindered in the cases of rectal, or gynecologic cancers.

During Pregnancy, the embryonic tissues tend to grow fast and quick and so does the DNA production which greatly mirrors the cancer cells and tissues, which makes these embryonic tissues highly assailable and defenceless against the anti-cancer drugs also known as anti-neoplastic medications.

The numbers of Cancers getting detected during Pregnancy has been on a low, but the study reveals the number is bound to rise in the future as more and more women plan a baby at later ages of life, which is a huge cause of cancer being diagnosed while pregnant.

Most Highly and Commonly Diagnosed Cancers During Pregnancy:

1. Breast Cancer
One of the most common cancers associated with women and it comes to top even in the case of pregnant women. Around 1 in 300o pregnant women is diagnosed with breast cancer. It is difficult to detect it as pregnancy leads to many physical changes in women, one of them being a change in the shape and size of their breasts.

2. Colorectal Cancer
Cancer which affects the colon i.e., the last part of the digestive tract is referred to as Colon Cancer. Cancer which occurs in the rectum i.e., where the stools are stored till the time of excretion this is known as rectal cancer and combinedly they are termed Colorectal Cancer. Many of its symptoms coincide with the signs of pregnancy.

3. Cervical Cancer
Cervical Cancer begins in the Cervix, like a birth canal which connects the lower section of the uterus to the vagina. Cervical Cancer usually caused due to the sexually transmitted virus HPV – Human Papilloma Virus.

4. Gestational Trophoblastic Disease (GTD)
GTD is a rare type of tumour which can either be cancerous or non-cancerous which develops during pregnancy. It affects the fetal chorion and occurs in the uterus or the womb of the pregnant female. It occurs due to a complication during the merging of the male’s sperm and female’s egg. Easily treatable when diagnosed at an early stage.

5. Thyroid Cancer
People often confuse the thyroid cancer equates to the thyroid disease, which is inaccurate. Thyroid disease occurs due to imbalance of the thyroid hormone but thyroid cancer develops due to the presence of the cancer cells in the thyroid gland.

6. Ovarian Cancer
The ovaries are the part of the female reproductive system which produces the female egg also known as the ova, along with the female hormones. When cancer develops into the ovaries it is known as Ovarian Cancer. It can easily go undetected when pregnant, as one of its symptoms being the constant urge to pee, is quite a common occurrence with a pregnant female.

7. Melanoma
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer which spreads throughout as one may experience mole-like outgrowths or changes in the existing moles on the skin.

8. Hodgkin Lymphoma
An immune system cancer which occurs due to rapid growth of the B-cells throughout the body. B-cells could be sub-classified under white blood cells. Hodgkin Lymphoma or Hodgkin’s Disease is highly uncommon amongst types of cancer. It is highly rare to happen during pregnancy, but treatment is not possible without harming the fetus here in any form. Hence, discretion is advised.

9. Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
The general difference between Hodgkin and Non-Hodgkin is given based on the specific lymphocyte cancer develops in. In the case of NHL, it is found to be common.

10. Leukaemia
In simple and precise terms, Leukemia is a synonym for blood cancer. Here the blood itself gives rise to cancer cells, making the spread of the cells grow at a rapid pace. Blood flows throughout the body, hence, abortion is advisable, as the treatment could harm the fetus.

Often the signs and symptoms of cancer tend to go undetected, as they match with the general process of what pregnant women go through;

  • Constant Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting - Morning Sickness
  • Bloating
  • Bladder Control Issues
  • Transformations in the shape and size of the Breast
  • Abdominal Pain

Diagnosis & Treatment:

The treatment of cancer during pregnancy is possible but there are many precautions and conditions which come along with it. Some forms of diagnosis itself can prove to be harmful to the fetus and the patient in concern,

Pap Tests, MRIs, Ultrasounds are safe options for diagnosis, so is Biopsy in most cases, excluding few. CT scans use some form of radiation which could be dangerous for the fetus hence, avoided unless done carefully.

Surgery is most advisable of all the treatments to treat cancer during pregnancy, Chemotherapy and Radiation therapy are non-advisable. The Chemo Drugs could cause birth defects in the child even lead to miscarriage. The radiations of Radiation therapy is very strong and poses a huge threat to the fetus.

Your Doctors, Oncologists and Gynecologists are what comes to your rescue here, proper caution and care could make the whole process smooth and harmless.


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