A New Test for Pregnant Women May Be a Life Saver

If there were a test that could tell you if you had cancer while you were pregnant, would you get it?

Well, according to the Journal of Oncology, testing that is routinely done on pregnant women in order to screen for problems related to their babies may actually be helpful in identifying certain types of cancer for mothers, too. 

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Image via Flickr/ rahego

The test is very noninvasive for pregnant women since it's actually the same test that can be used to screen for Down syndrome. So if you're opting to do the blood test to see if your baby may have Down syndrome, you wouldn't need any other testing done. 

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Basically, the test works by detaching “cell-free DNA” in the mother's blood, which can detect not only fetal problems but also maternal tumors. Researchers who looked more closely at the DNA found genetic abnormalities, which ended up being cancer with more testing. They found, for example, different cancers such as ovarian carcinoma, follicular lymphoma, and Hodgkin's lymphoma. 

What is most important to understand about the testing is that:

  1. it can detect cancer before the mother is experiencing symptoms, and
  2. it can detect cancer early on during her pregnancy, which could lead to more options for treatment. Treatment later on the in pregnancy, for example, may be more complicated. 

Researchers are also trying to fine-tune the DNA test so as to lessen the occurrences of false positives for Down syndrome, as well as pick up other disorders with the test besides Down syndrome. 

“Considering the bad prognosis of some cancers when detected later, and given that we know that it is both possible and safe to treat the disease during pregnancy, this is an important added advantage of NIPT,” said the author's lead researcher, Professor Joris Vermeesch, Head of the Laboratory for Cytogenetics and Genome Research at Leuven. “During pregnancy, cancer-related symptoms may well be masked; fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, and vaginal blood loss are easily interpretable as a normal part of being pregnant. NIPT offers an opportunity for the accurate screening of high-risk women for cancer, allowing us to overcome the challenge of early diagnosis in pregnant women.”

Honestly, I have turned down most testings during my pregnancies because, in my mind, it didn't matter to me if my baby would have special needs or not. But this test does put things into a new perspective. If it would benefit a mom and a baby, it does make me reconsider getting it done. 

Would you get the test done? 

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A New Test for Pregnant Women May Be a Life Saver

Chaunie Brusie is a writer, mom of four, and founder of The Stay Strong Mom, a community + gift box service for moms after loss. ... More

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