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Pregnant...With Cancer

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Two weeks after getting one of the happiest bits of news a woman can get, Sandi got the worst imaginable. She was pregnant with cancer.

The lymphoma diagnosis was a startling twist. Thankfully, Sandi (who blogs about her experiences at pregnantcancer.blogspot.com) is one of the lucky ones; the thriving mother of an 18-month-old daughter who survived chemo treatments.

But the stunning dichotomy she faced is something that more women are having to face these days, especially as families wait longer to conceive children.

It was a foreign phenomenon to me until a friend mentioned last week during casual instant messaging chit-chat that she had three female friends within the past several months who had been diagnosed with varying forms of cancer during their pregnancies. All of the tests that come with monitoring the baby had revealed tumors as well.

These are young women, consumed with joy about their growing babies and then informed that two lives were in danger.

According to the Pregnant with Cancer Network, the numbers are still small. One in close to 1,000 women pregnant have pregnant-associated cancers. Yet experts are seeing that the problem is slowly creeping up in frequency.

The network is a new and great way for women going through this ordeal to link-up and share stories of treatment. the site (pregnantwithcancer.org) has a section with first-person survivor stories to inspire hope that cancer can be treated during pregnancy.

Additionally, Dr. Elyse Cardonick, a fetal medicine physician based at Cooper University Hospital, which serves south New Jersey, is working on an ambitious project to understand trends and advances in treating mothers-to-be-with cancer. She’s collecting information from those affected to increase understanding.

“The medical literature currently cannot answer all the relevant questions for the woman facing this cancer or other types during pregnancy,” she writes on her web site (cancerandpregnancy.com). “Few oncologists or obstetricians treat more than two or three patients in this situation in an entire career.

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HERWriter Guide

Thank you for all this information.

I wonder what is triggering these pregnancy induced cancers - I assume it is the hormonal shift in pregnancy? Like the connection between high estrogen levels and breast cancer...

I also wonder how these women get diagnosed so quickly, since many people have cancer for years before symptoms or diagnosis - is the cancer accidentally found when standard prenatal tests are being done?

I hope all these women go on to lead long healthy lives - pregnancy is scary enough, I can't imagine dealing with cancer at the same time...

May 18, 2009 - 1:04pm
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