5 Facts About Pregnancy and Cancer
For many of us, pregnancy is a time in our lives that we dream about — a time when we will be glowing and happy and completely focused on growing our own little family.
And while that time of pregnancy as a miraculous, happy one can be true in a lot of ways, it can also be extremely scary, fraught with tension and questions, and a time to find a strength you didn't know you had.
For women who are battling cancer while pregnant, these things are especially true. Click through to read more facts about the courageous women who battle cancer while pregnant.
Pregnancy can mean making a scary choice.
After Amy Wilson, now 29, underwent intense radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery to try to stall the growth of her brain tumor, her doctors told her that she would be infertile and, at best, have six months to live. Two years later, Amy was shocked to find out that she was pregnant. And although she and her husband were elated, the pregnancy also forced Amy to make a very difficult choice: her or her baby.
“I knew I had a little precious baby inside, and I wanted this little miracle to have a chance of life,” Amy explained. “I was willing to put mine aside to be able to let this little baby grow, and if that meant stop[ing] all chemo and other drugs, then I knew I had to stay positive, but I was afraid to get my hopes up.”
Amy chose to stop all her cancer treatments immediately and delivered a healthy baby girl nine months later. Her daughter was quickly joined by twin brothers and another brother, all delivered by Amy and perfectly healthy. Today, Amy is in remission from her Stage IV Glioblastoma brain tumor — the very same type of tumor that Brittany Maynard was also tragically diagnosed with.
It is possible to get chemotherapy while pregnant.
Fox News recently shared the story of 38-year-old Zoila Leiva, who was pregnant with twins when she received her breast cancer diagnosis. Because she was past her first trimester, her doctor signed off on her receiving chemotherapy, saying that it would be safe for her babies if she continued with it. Zoila ended up receiving four rounds of chemo while still pregnant and delivered healthy twin boys who are now 6 years old.
Breast cancer is the #1 cancer diagnosed during pregnancy.
According to the American Cancer Society, “breast cancer is the most common type of cancer found during pregnancy, while breastfeeding, or within the first year of delivery.” Although it is rare — only 1 in every 3,000 pregnant women get diagnosed with breast cancer every year — the changes that occur to in women's breasts during pregnancy can make it difficult to detect, so it's often detected at later stages in pregnant women. Self-exams have never been more important, ladies!
Pregnancy and breastfeeding may reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Because women who are pregnant and breastfeeding have lower levels of estrogen in their bodies, they may have a decreased risk of getting breast cancer, even later in life. Estrogen can fuel the growth of cancer cells, so pregnancy and breastfeeding can help prevent that growth. The American Cancer Society states that women who start their childbearing years earlier and have more pregnancies have the lowest risk for breast cancer, while women who begin having children after age 30 have an increased risk.
Help is available.
The single greatest lesson that any pregnant woman can learn before she becomes a mother is that it's always best to know when to ask for help and where to get that help. For pregnant women facing cancer, there are many different resources dedicated exclusively to helping women get through the difficult time of battling cancer such as Hope for Two and NCCN.
Do you conduct your monthly self exams?