Wonderful progress have been made in studying pregnant women found to have cancer says an article by Professor Frédéric Amant of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. An early experience of caring for a pregnant woman with cervical cancer was pivotal in shaping the course of his career: “She told me her early diagnosis was thanks to the pregnancy. So she wanted to give her baby the chance he had given her.”
Professor Amant is a lead author of a series in the respected medical journal The Lancet on malignancy in pregnancy. About one or two per 2000 pregnancies are complicated by cancer, with the most common being breast cancer (40%) and blood cancers (20%). Professor Amant states there is nothing to suggest the pregnancy causes the cancers. The biggest challenge is educating the public that chemotherapy is possible in pregnancy without harm to the baby. Women find it hard to believe they shouldn't have an aspirin, but can take these very strong chemotherapy drugs during pregnancy”, Amant says. “At first, we did not have much evidence regarding the unborn babies. But now more than 120 children have been born to women treated with chemotherapy in our ongoing international collaborative study, and they are doing as well as the general population, so that offers reassurance.”
“Fear of chemotherapy should not be a reason to terminate pregnancy”, he said, “It's rarely necessary to change the standard chemotherapy treatment regimen for pregnant women with cancer, and chemotherapy does not harm the unborn child”.
This is great news for so many women who are pregnant and find they have cancer yet again reinforcing the consistent pro-life message that abortion is never the answer.
In Brisbane there is a support organisation called Mummy’s Wish — http://www.mummyswish.org.au — that gives practical help to pregnant women with cancer.