A recent article from Reuters reports that according to an Australian study, "The number of pregnant women diagnosed with cancer has increased over the past couple of decades."
Two factors were cited in the increase of diagnoses:
- Age of expectant mothers
- Prenatal care
According to the article, while the number of women over 35 expecting a baby is up, from "13 percent of pregnant women...over age 35 [in 1994], compared to almost 24 percent in 2007," researchers also noted, "age only accounted for a fraction of the increased cancer risk over time."
Prenatal care is most likely the cause of increased detection, and there may be a specific reason for it: The most reported cancer among the expectant mothers in the study was melanoma, and because melanoma is Australia's most common cancer, physicians there tend to watch out for it.
What I found interesting is that "women in the study with cancer were more likely to plan an early birth," even though the article explains early delivery is more of a risk to the fetus than exposure to chemotherapy.
Obviously, different cancers have different treatment guidelines and risks associated with them whether the patient is pregnant or not, but I'd like to hear from the community. How do you manage this unique population? How do you balance treating your patient and her cancer while also protecting the fetus?
How do clinicians keep the joy of pregnancy balanced with the truth of treatment?