Cancer and Pregnancy
Before being treated for cancer and throughout your pregnancy, your obstetrician will assess the age of the fetus, maturity of the fetus and expected delivery date to help plan your treatment and ensure the baby is growing properly.
The doctors will look at the best treatment options for the mother, balancing this with possible risks to the fetus. The treatment options for a pregnant woman with cancer are the same as those of the non-pregnant woman with cancer, but how and when the treatment is given may need to be changed.
The type of treatment and when it may be given depends on many factors:
- the location of the cancer
- the type of cancer
- the stage of the cancer
- how old the fetus is (how long the woman has been pregnant)
- the wishes of the mother
Chemotherapy during the first trimester can cause birth defects and low birth weights or may cause a woman to miscarry. The risk of birth defects when chemotherapy is given during the first trimester varies according to the chemotherapy used.
The effects of cancer on the fetus are still largely unknown, but it seems that cancer only rarely has a direct effect on the fetus. Only a few cancers can spread from the mother to the fetus. These include malignant melanoma, small cell lung cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia.