Can Cancer Harm Pregnancy?
If a woman gets cancer at a child bearing age then one has to be treated very carefully. The most common areas where the tumour can be seen include breast cancer, cervical cancer, lymphoma and melanoma.
Cancer while pregnant can be rare but if a patent has any of the above mentioned cancers then mostly they choose to continue with their pregnancy. Some patients may also delay in beginning their treatment because they want to begin it post delivery. But this decision completely depends on the diagnosis and the stage of the disease. If the patients are diagnosed with the disease in the late phase of pregnancy and there they can choose to deliver the baby early and then start the treatment immediately after that.
When these patients are treated when they are pregnant they always pose some special challenges. When a cancer patient becomes pregnant, the treatment decisions are always taken after studying the well being of the unborn baby and the patient. There always remains some extra challenge because one has to do good to both the mother and the baby. Caring for a pregnant patient who has cancer must take into consideration both the anatomical and the physiological changes that is happening during pregnancy and risks associated with cancer diagnosis and treatment.
When one is pregnant, the maternal blood volume generally increases by 40 to 50 percent. There are other hemodynamic changes which include systemic blood pressure, cardiac output, heart rate, blood flow distribution and pulmonary vascular resistance. Also the coagulation properties change during pregnancy and as a result there is a risk of increase in pulmonary embolus.
When the gravid uterus grows there are some anatomical changes that occur. The abdominal and the diaphragm organs are also pushed upwards and the heart also changes its function, position and appearance. The heart rate also increases and it takes a peak when the pregnancy reaches to its third trimester. The gastric and respiratory functions may also get altered.
That is why; it is very important to ask any female patient who reaches their child bearing age the date of their last menstrual cycle when they are going for a chemotherapy or for any kind of radiation therapy. This can teach the patient why contraception is important when they are going through a cancer treatment. When pregnancy is suspected but it is not sure then a serum pregnancy test can always be done to be sure. When the pregnancy is normal the level of HCG increases by 66 percent every 48 hours at the very beginning during the time of implantation of fertilized ovum. In fact the first trimester is also known as the period of organogenesis. Also the fetal exposure to chemotherapy agents in the very first trimester can also cause spontaneous abortion.
If there is cancer in early pregnancy then one should go for an immediate diagnosis and leave it completely on the expert doctors that when they need to and want to start the treatment. This will depend on the stage of the disease.