Abortion is an emotive subject. Some people think that a woman should always have the right to control what happens to her own body, others disagree and think that an embryo or fetus is a person from the moment of conception.
Arguments focus on the unborn baby, but very little attention is given to the woman. The pro-life issue is not just about the baby’s life, but the mother’s life too.
During the woman’s pre-operative consultation, the surgeon is supposed to inform her of any complications or side-effects she may encounter from the procedure. Although abdominal pain, pelvic infections and perforations of the uterus are routinely mentioned, breast cancer never is.
A study in the World Journal of Surgical Oncology found that women who had had induced abortions were at a much greater risk of developing breast cancer than women who had not had an induced abortion.
Between January 2000 and December 2006, a survey was conducted among various medical clinics in Turkey. It involved 1492 breast cancer sufferers and 2167 women with other health problems.
The study authors wrote:
‘These findings suggest that age and induced abortion were found to be significantly associated with increased breast cancer risk.’
Other risk factors included being older than 35 at the time of giving birth to her first child, lack of breast feeding, having a family history of breast cancer and being overweight.
Since breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, with 12,082 deaths in the UK and 40,460 deaths in the USA in 2007 alone, obstetricians should tell women considering an abortion that it does carry a risk of cancer.
Honesty would not only limit the number of terminations and potentially reduce cancer rates, but it would also allow the woman the opportunity to make a truly informed choice.
Source: World Journal of Surgical Oncology 2009, 7:37doi:10.1186/1477-7819-7-37.
Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/.