Battling Cancer During Pregnancy

News, Treatment — By on October 27, 2008 at 4:16 pm

Cancer during pregnancy is not common, occurring in about 1 out of 1,000 pregnancies, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Peggy Noval was 39 years old and in her ninth month of pregnancy when she was diagnosed this year with advanced breast cancer.

With her husband, Keith, and an army of family and friends rallied to help, Noval fought through a grueling series of cancer treatments, as she puts it, with a Red Bull in one hand and a Bible in the other. After eight months of treatment, she appears to be cancer-free.

Body changes during pregnancy can mask the symptoms of cancer, delaying diagnosis an average of five to 15 months, according to the National Cancer Institute. As a result, cancers in pregnant women are typically diagnosed at a more advanced stage, which carries a more grim prognosis.

A cancer diagnosis during pregnancy sets off a chain of heart-wrenching decisions. In the past, women were faced with the choice of terminating their pregnancies or going without treatment. Today, pregnant women undergo not only surgery but chemotherapy. At least after the first trimester, some chemotherapy drugs do not appear to harm the fetus.

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