Cancer during pregnancy is rare. However, it will be more complex to diagnose and treat if it develops during pregnancy. This is because cancer diagnosis and treatments can affect the fetus.
The prevalence of cancer in pregnancy is likely to increase as women delay childbirth until their later years. The tumours such as cervical cancer, melanoma, breast cancer and lymphoma are the most commonly seen in women of childbearing age.
Nowadays, many individuals choose to continue their pregnancies after the diagnosis. Some people prefer to delay the treatment (chemotherapy) till their delivery, but some begin their treatment immediately. The treatment decision depends upon the diagnoses, stage of the disorder and gestational age.
In this blog, we will know:
- Which is the most common cancer diagnosed during pregnancy?
- Effect of cancer on the fetus
- Prevention of cancer in pregnancy
Which is the most common cancer diagnosed during pregnancy?
Breast cancer is the commonest cancer diagnosed during pregnancy. It may be hard to diagnose it in pregnant or nursing women early.
The breasts generally become larger, lumpy or tender in pregnant women, have just delivered a baby or nursing. This happens due to the regular hormone changes, which occur during pregnancy. These changes make it difficult to detect small lumps.
It is difficult to detect breast cancer even with mammography in women with dense breasts. Thus, the breast changes can delay the diagnosis and breast cancer is usually detected at a later stage.
You may also like to read: Anastrozole: An effective drug to treat Breast Cancer.
Effect of cancer on the fetus
The impact of cancer on the fetus is still not widely known. But it appears that it rarely has a direct effect on the fetus. Only a few cancers can spread from the mother to the fetus, such as malignant melanoma, leukaemia, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
If cancer has not spread to the baby, then no preventive, or prophylactic, therapy will be given to the newborn. However, the healthcare team will closely monitor the baby and observe early signs of cancer if there are chances that cancer might spread from the mother.
Cancer cells cannot pass from breast milk to the baby. However, chemotherapy and other drugs can transfer to the baby that can cause harm. Radioactive substances can also get into breast milk and harm the infant when taken as a drink or a pill. Due to this reason, women undergoing treatment are usually advised not to breastfeed their baby.
Prevention of cancer in pregnancy
It is always best to prevent any disease than treating it once it developed. Women should follow some below listed preventive measures:
Don’t use tobacco: The use of tobacco-containing products is associated with various types of cancer such as throat, lung, breast and colorectal. Secondhand smoke also increases the risk of lung cancer.
Protect skin from the sun: Use sunscreen of broad-spectrum suitable during pregnancy and/or wear protective clothing to prevent sun damage while going in the sun for an extended period. The prolonged exposure to the sun's UV rays causes most skin cancer. you may like to read Deleterious effects of UV rays on the incidence of skin cancer to know the association between sun damage and cancer.
Eat a healthy diet: Eating lots plant based diet such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains helps prevent various cancers. Limit the consumption of red meat and processed meat. Also avoid alcohol consumption as it can increase the risk for liver, breast and colorectal cancers. You can learn about the association between alcohol and cancer by reading An association between Alcohol consumption and Cancer.
Maintain healthy body weight and stay physically active: Include a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity in your daily routine.
Inactivity and obesity can increase the risk of colorectal and breast cancer. Read Exercise: A vital cancer prevention strategy for more details.
Practice safe sex: The more sexual partners in your lifetime, increases the risk of sexually transmitted infection like HIV or HPV. Patients with HIV have a higher risk of anus, lung and liver cancer. HPV is mostly linked to cervical cancer. However, it may increase the risk of anus, penis, vulva, vagina and throat cancer.
Get immunized: Certain viruses (hepatitis B virus and HPV) are associated with cancer and are preventable through vaccination. You can read Association between virus and cancer for more clarification.
These preventive measures can help to a great extent for preventing cancer. Cancer during pregnancy can be challenging, but it can be managed with strong will power, positivity and generous support of a specialized physician. Completely following physician instructions will help to cope with the situation and fight with his deadly condition.
Do not forget to read: Cancer symptoms to be taken seriously by women