With Child, With Cancer

This was an extremely interesting, though long, article. Fortunately, having cancer while being pregnant is rare, so it’s not something that most women have to worry about; but when you do have to worry about it, then what are your options?

Prior to reading this, I assumed that most women could not undergo chemotherapy while pregnant. I have heard of numerous women being advised to have an abortion (even on a viable or near-viable baby); and I’ve heard of women who have refused abortion, choosing instead to delay chemo which might save their life, to give their babies a better chance at life. One woman in my community did that. When she was about 24 weeks along, she was diagnosed with a rare but aggressive form of cancer, and chose to have the baby at 30 weeks (which has a high survival rate) and then begin chemo. She died a few weeks after her son’s birth.

In this article, it does mention that some drugs are not given during pregnancy — some of the women had milder forms of chemo while pregnant, and then once they had the baby (either at a normal time, or an early induction or C-section), chemo was kicked up to the very hazardous drugs. That there are any chemo drugs that don’t seriously mess up the baby shocked me; but at least one doctor (mentioned in the article), has compiled a lot of research on cases of pregnant women with cancer, and actually found that the birth defect rate might be as low as 5%, although other studies put it at 10-15%. But, the rate of survival with an abortion is 0, so for women who want to try, it is a reasonable option.

Consider your options. Obviously, there will be a lot of things to consider, if you are a pregnant woman with cancer — the type of cancer, how aggresive it is, what stage it is, how far along you are, etc. But it is important to know all of your options. One of the things that stood out to me, as I read the aforementioned article, is that so many doctors automatically counsel a pregnant woman to undergo an abortion. They may not know the latest research. Some older research suggested that when pregnant women with cancer have abortions, the survival rate is better; newer research seems to indicate the opposite — whether because pregnant women have something to live for, or because the grief and guilt over the abortion (even if they considered it necessary at the time) depressed them. It is a recognized fact that people who “think positive” tend to get better and stay healthier than those who are sad, so this is a possibility.

So, before you make these very tough decisions, do your own research, because your doctor may not have the time or inclination to be up on the latest findings.

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