World Cancer Day 2023: How women with cancer can manage pregnancy

World Cancer Day, marked every February 4th, aims to raise awareness about cancer. According to the World Health Organization, the disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. According to statistics, about 10 million people died of cancer in 2020. Many questions are associated with this, and cancer women often fear whether they will be able to have a baby with the disease. They generally wonder if cancer can pass from mother to fetus. Cancer is rarely transmitted in the womb, experts say. Read on to find out if it’s safe for women with cancer to have babies.

HealthShots contacted Dr. Vishal Rao, Group Director of Surgical Oncology and Robotic Surgery at HCG Cancer Center in Bengaluru, to find out if cancer can be passed from mother to child.

Rare cases where cancer is passed from mother to child

It is not entirely impossible for a baby to be born with cancer. Dr. Rao says that genetic mutations in the egg or sperm cells before conception rarely pass cancer from mother to child. In some cases, it is caused by genetic changes that occur during fetal development.

Rarely, cancer is passed from mother to fetus. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock

Are there hereditary types of cancer?

We know that cancer is a genetic disease, but not everything is hereditary. Some types of cancer, such as breast and ovarian cancer, are hereditary and can be caused by inherited genetic mutations (a healthy lifestyle and diet may reduce breast cancer risk). There are). Therefore, if you have a family history of these cancers, it is recommended that you get tested. You may be at an increased risk of developing them yourself.

Effects of cancer on the fetus

For women battling cancer, the fear of cancer’s effects on the fetus is real.
Effects depend on the type of cancer and stage of pregnancy. However, in general, cancer treatment during pregnancy can pose risks to the fetus, including premature birth and low birth weight (Tips to help premature babies grow). Radiation therapy and certain types of chemotherapy can also harm the developing fetus and should be avoided as much as possible during pregnancy.

Tips to Keep in Mind When Managing Cancer and Pregnancy

Although there is no surefire way to prevent cancer in the fetus, there are ways to ensure a smooth pregnancy.

cancer during pregnancy
Have a smooth pregnancy by following these simple tips.Image credit: Shutterstock

1. Seek help from a medical professional

It is important for pregnant women with cancer to have a team of health care professionals experienced in managing cancer during pregnancy. Therefore, whether they are obstetricians, oncologists, or fertility specialists, they should be involved.

2. Additional monitoring and testing during pregnancy

Pregnant women with cancer may need additional monitoring and testing during pregnancy to ensure that mother and baby are healthy. For example, you may need more frequent prenatal visits, ultrasounds and other tests to monitor your baby’s growth and development, experts say.

3. Address cancer treatment timing

The timing of cancer treatment during pregnancy is also important (how to prevent side effects of chemotherapy). In some cases, it may be best to delay treatment until after the baby is born. Otherwise, it may be best to start treatment as soon as possible. This all depends on the type of cancer, the stage of the disease, and the mother’s overall health.

4. Access to counseling and support services

Pregnant women with cancer may also have additional emotional and psychological needs, and it is important to reach out to counseling and support services. This will help you deal with the added stress and uncertainty of getting cancer during pregnancy.

5. Check out support groups and online communities

In today’s world, pregnant women with cancer can get help from support groups, online communities, and organizations that can provide information and support.

6. Genetic testing

If there is a family history of cancer, it is important that the prospective mother discusses genetic testing with her pediatrician. It turns out that certain genetic predispositions can predispose children to certain types of cancer. Early detection is therefore essential in such cases.

When your baby is born, lead a healthy lifestyle and get regular cancer screenings. They help detect and treat cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages.

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