Finding out that you’re pregnant is generally a very joyous time in a couple’s life. Whether this is your first pregnancy or not, there will be plenty of planning and anticipation of the new arrival. Your mind will be consumed with what to buy and steps you need to take to have a healthy pregnancy. You will eagerly go to all of your prenatal checkups to see how your unborn baby is developing thinking that nothing could possible go wrong.
Generally, this is the case for the majority of pregnancies. However, there are times when an expectant mother isn’t so lucky. It is possible to be diagnosed with cancer while pregnant. This can happen in one of every 1,000 pregnancies. Any type of cancer can occur, but the most common types of cancer during pregnancy are thyroid, breast, cervical, and melanoma. Some women don’t even know they have cancer until they are pregnant and find out about it during one of their routine checkups. An example of this would be cervical cancer which can be detected after the pat test you receive in the first few weeks of pregnancy.
If cancer is a possibility, your doctor will want to perform more through tests such as ultrasounds, MRI, or a biopsy. What tests you undergo will depend on what type of cancer is suspected and where it is in your body. These tests have virtually no risk to the unborn child because no radiation is used. X-rays can also be used to determine what form of cancer you have. When available, the person performing the x-ray will place a lead shield over your stomach to protect it from the radiation levels. These levels are considered to be low and shouldn’t hurt the fetus in any way.
Once it is determined what type of cancer you have, treatment options will be presented to you. The most common types of cancer treatments are chemotherapy, radiation, and undergoing surgery. Treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can harm your unborn baby significantly causing birth defects or even miscarriage. These treatments are not recommended at all in the first trimester. They can be administered in the second and third trimesters but only under very special circumstances. Surgery is probably the best and is considered the safest treatment option you can receive. There is virtually no risk to the unborn baby and can also alleviate the need for radiation or chemotherapy.
Cancer will rarely reach the unborn baby itself due to the placenta acting as a barrier to protect the baby. However, there are rare cases where the baby develops the same cancer the mother had while pregnant. As said, this rarely happens but is worth being made aware of. Another thing you will want to keep in mind is that breastfeeding is discouraged if you are receiving cancer treatment because the drugs you are taking can find their way into your breast milk thus harming your baby.
If you have had cancer in the past, there is no reason to think that you can’t have a normal, healthy pregnancy. Ideally, your cancer should be in remission for 3 to 5 years before you try to get pregnant. This, of course, depends on the type of cancer you had and how much damage may have been done internally due to the cancer treatments you received. Some people think that that pregnancy will cause your cancer to come back. This is not true by any means. If by chance it does come back during pregnancy, it will be because of other underlying conditions and not because you’re pregnant.
Being diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy rarely occurs, but if it does happen, the earlier you find out about it, the better your outcome can be. Research all of your treatment options available to you before you decide on what avenue to take. Depending upon what stage your cancer is in and how far along you are in your pregnancy, you might not even need to receive cancer treatment until after your baby is born. If you do have to start cancer treatment while pregnant, make sure you are comfortable with the treatment you pick. If you are not 100% certain about a treatment plan, keep looking until you find one you are comfortable with. Your health is just as important as your unborn child’s is so you will want to pick the best option for both of you.