Pregnancy should not delay treatment of cancer. Treatment is often similar to that in nonpregnant women, except for rectal Colorectal Cancer Colorectal cancer is extremely common. Symptoms include blood in the stool and change in bowel habits. Diagnosis is by colonoscopy. Treatment is surgical resection and chemotherapy for nodal... read more and gynecologic cancers Introduction to Gynecologic Tumors Gynecologic cancers involve the uterus, ovaries, cervix, vulva, vagina, fallopian tubes, or peritoneum. Gestational trophoblastic disease is a group of proliferative disorders originating from... read more .
Because embryonic tissues grow rapidly and have a high DNA turnover rate, they resemble cancer tissues and are thus very vulnerable to antineoplastic drugs. Many antimetabolites and alkylating drugs (eg, busulfan, chlorambucil, cyclophosphamide, 6-mercaptopurine, methotrexate) can cause fetal abnormalities. Methotrexate is particularly problematic; use during the 1st trimester increases risk of spontaneous abortion and, if the pregnancy continues, multiple congenital malformations. Although pregnancy often concludes successfully despite cancer treatment, risk of fetal injury due to treatment leads some women to choose pregnancy termination.
Diagnosis and management of cancer during pregnancy or the postpartum period require a multidisciplinary team including oncologists and maternal-fetal medicine specialists. Patient education and shared decision making is important to ensure the patient can make an informed decision.
Gestational breast cancer is defined as cancer during pregnancy, in the first year postpartum, and/or during lactation. Breast hypertrophy and engorgement during pregnancy may make recognizing breast cancer Breast Cancer Breast cancers are most often epithelial tumors involving the ducts or lobules. Most patients present with an asymptomatic mass discovered during examination or screening mammography. Diagnosis... read more difficult. Any solid or cystic breast mass Evaluation A breast mass (lump) may be discovered by patients incidentally or during breast self-examination or by the clinician during physical examination. Masses may be painless or painful and are sometimes... read more should be evaluated.
Usually, breast cancer should be treated immediately. Data are mixed regarding whether being diagnosed with breast cancer during pregnancy negatively impacts prognosis (1 References Pregnancy should not delay treatment of cancer. Treatment is often similar to that in nonpregnant women, except for rectal and gynecologic cancers. Because embryonic tissues grow rapidly and... read more , 2 References Pregnancy should not delay treatment of cancer. Treatment is often similar to that in nonpregnant women, except for rectal and gynecologic cancers. Because embryonic tissues grow rapidly and... read more ).
Pregnancy does not appear to worsen the prognosis of cervical cancer Cervical Cancer Cervical cancer is usually squamous cell carcinoma; adenocarcinoma is less common. The cause of most cervical cancers is human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Cervical neoplasia is often asymptomatic... read more (3 References Pregnancy should not delay treatment of cancer. Treatment is often similar to that in nonpregnant women, except for rectal and gynecologic cancers. Because embryonic tissues grow rapidly and... read more ).
Cervical cancer can develop during pregnancy, and an abnormal Papanicolaou (Pap) test should not be attributed to the pregnancy itself. Abnormal Pap tests are followed by colposcopy and directed biopsies when indicated. Colposcopy does not increase risk of an adverse pregnancy outcome. Biopsies are done only if high-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia or cervical cancer is suspected. If biopsy is required, expert colposcopic evaluation and consultation with the pathologist are recommended because the biopsy may cause hemorrhage and preterm labor.
For carcinoma in situ (Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics [FIGO] stage 0—see table ) and microinvasive cancer (stage IA1), treatment is often deferred until after delivery because at these stages, cancer progresses very slowly and pregnancy can be completed safely without affecting the woman's prognosis.
If invasive cancer (FIGO stage IA2 or higher) is diagnosed, pregnancy should be managed in consultation with a gynecologic oncologist. If invasive cancer is diagnosed during early pregnancy, immediate therapy appropriate for the cancer is usually recommended. If invasive cancer is diagnosed after 20 weeks and if the woman accepts the unquantified increase in risk, treatment can be deferred until into the 3rd trimester (eg, 32 weeks) to maximize fetal maturity but not delay treatment too long. For patients with invasive cancer, cesarean delivery with radical hysterectomy rather than vaginal delivery is done.
Other gynecologic cancers
After 12 weeks gestation, ovarian, fallopian tube, and peritoneal cancers Ovarian, Fallopian Tube, and Peritoneal Cancer Ovarian cancer is often fatal because it is usually advanced when diagnosed. The most common histology—high-grade serous epithelial ovarian cancer—is considered as a single clinical entity along... read more are difficult to detect, because after 12 weeks gestation the ovaries, with the uterus, rise out of the pelvis and are no longer easily palpable. If advanced, ovarian cancer during pregnancy may be fatal before completion of the pregnancy. Affected women require bilateral oophorectomy as soon as possible.
Rectal cancers Colorectal Cancer Colorectal cancer is extremely common. Symptoms include blood in the stool and change in bowel habits. Diagnosis is by colonoscopy. Treatment is surgical resection and chemotherapy for nodal... read more may require hysterectomy to ensure complete tumor removal. Cesarean delivery may be done as early as 28 weeks, followed by hysterectomy so that aggressive cancer treatment can be started.
Leukemia and Hodgkin lymphoma
Leukemia Overview of Leukemia Leukemia is a malignant condition involving the excess production of immature or abnormal leukocytes, which eventually suppresses the production of normal blood cells and results in symptoms... read more and Hodgkin lymphoma Hodgkin Lymphoma Hodgkin lymphoma is a localized or disseminated malignant proliferation of cells of the lymphoreticular system, primarily involving lymph node tissue, spleen, liver, and bone marrow. Symptoms... read more are uncommon during pregnancy.
Antineoplastic agents typically used to treat lymphoma increase risk of fetal loss and congenital malformations.
Because leukemias can become fatal rapidly, treatment is given as soon as possible, without any significant delay to allow the fetus to mature.
If Hodgkin lymphoma is confined to above the diaphragm, radiation therapy may be used; the abdomen must be shielded. If lymphoma is below the diaphragm, abortion may be recommended.
1. Amant F, von Minckwitz G, Han SN, et al: Prognosis of women with primary breast cancer diagnosed during pregnancy: results from an international collaborative study. J Clin Oncol 31(20):2532-2539, 2013. doi:10.1200/JCO.2012.45.6335
2. Shao C, Yu Z, Xiao J, et al: Prognosis of pregnancy-associated breast cancer: a meta-analysis. BMC Cancer 20(1):746, 2020. doi:10.1186/s12885-020-07248-8
3. Johansson ALV, Fredriksson I, Mellemkjaer L, et al. Cancer survival in women diagnosed with pregnancy-associated cancer: An overview using nationwide registry data in Sweden 1970-2018. Eur J Cancer 155:106-115, 2021. doi:10.1016/j.ejca.2021.07.008
Drugs Mentioned In This Article
|Cyclophosphamide, Cytoxan, Neosar
|Jylamvo, Otrexup, Rasuvo, RediTrex, Rheumatrex, Trexall, Xatmep