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Cancer During Pregnancy
Because cancer tends to be life threatening and because delays in treatment may reduce the likelihood of successful treatment, cancer is usually treated the same way whether the woman is pregnant or not. Some of the usual treatments (surgery, chemotherapy drugs, and radiation therapy) may harm the fetus. Thus, some women may consider abortion. However, treatments can sometimes be timed so that risk to the fetus is reduced.
In some cancers, treatment may be modified during pregnancy.
If pregnant women have an abnormal Papanicolaou (Pap) test, doctors examine the cervix with a binocular magnifying lens (colposcopy) and take a sample of any abnormal tissue (biopsy). These procedures do not harm the fetus.
If the cancer is in a very early stage, treatment is usually postponed until after delivery. If more advanced cervical cancer is detected early in pregnancy, it is usually treated immediately as needed. If it is diagnosed late in pregnancy, doctors explain the risk of postponing treatment so that women can decide whether to postpone treatment until after the fetus is mature enough to be delivered. If cancer is advanced, cesarean delivery is done, followed by hysterectomy.
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