Cancers found during pregnancy linked to greater risk of mortality
(NaturalHealth365) A plethora of changes cascade through a woman’s body during pregnancy and persist postpartum. From hormonal fluctuations to physical adaptations, the body undergoes a remarkable transformation. Understanding how these changes intersect with a cancer diagnosis forms the core of a study led by University of Calgary researcher Zoe F. Cairncross, M.P.H., and her team.
Their research delves into the implications of pregnancy-associated cancers, exploring whether women diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy face increased mortality risks compared to those diagnosed outside of pregnancy.
Study investigates impact of pregnancy on cancer diagnosis
For the purposes of this study, “pregnancy-associated cancer” is defined as cancer that occurs during the time when the woman is pregnant or up to a year postpartum.
The study involved 24,307 premenopausal female participants, aged 18 to 50 years old, who had been diagnosed with cancer from 2003 through 2016. A follow-up was done on these women in 2017.
All pregnancy-related cancers were considered, with the exclusion of breast cancer. The study participants were residing in the Canadian provinces of Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta.
The data underwent analysis in both 2021 and 2022, dividing participants into three distinct categories. The first group comprised women diagnosed with cancer during the period from conception to delivery. The second group included those diagnosed with cancer from the time of delivery up to one year postpartum. The final category encompassed women diagnosed with cancer at times not associated with pregnancy or the postpartum period.
Cancer diagnoses and survival rates among pregnant and postpartum women
Over the course of the study, the women in each category were diagnosed with cancer:
- Pregnancy – 1,014
- Postpartum – 3.074
- Not pregnant or postpartum – 20,219
All three groups shared a very similar outcome for the one-year survival rate for cancer. However, the pregnancy and postpartum groups had a lower five-year survival rate for cancer. The conclusion is that women who are diagnosed with pregnancy-related cancer are at a greater risk of death than those who are not.
The cancers with the highest mortality rate among pregnant women were breast, ovarian, and stomach while the cancers with the highest mortality rate among postpartum women were brain, breast, and melanoma.
Why pregnancy presents unique challenges to your body
There are a number of factors that may contribute to a woman being diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy or postpartum.
Women who undergo certain types of fertility treatments, specifically those involving hormonal interventions, may experience an increased risk of certain types of cancers. These women are typically monitored more closely, which can contribute to the detection of cancer during pregnancy.
Immune system changes
Pregnancy stimulates a number of transformations in a woman’s body as it changes to accommodate the fetus growing within her. These changes also impact the immune system and can affect the way her body detects and fights abnormal cells. This can contribute to the development of cancer.
There are certain types of cancers that are associated with advanced maternal age. Women who delay childbirth until later in life may also be exposing themselves to an increased risk of cancer. As more women follow this trend, there is the potential for these types of cancer during pregnancy to increase as a result.
Many significant hormonal changes occur in a woman’s body during pregnancy. Certain cancers are hormone-sensitive, and the hormonal fluctuations of pregnancy may produce both the growth and detection of these cancers.
Preparing your body for pregnancy and beyond
Preparing your body for pregnancy, nurturing your infant as you recover from childbirth, and facilitating breastfeeding entail more than routine doctor visits and prenatal supplements. Here are some simple steps you can take starting today:
- Maintain a healthy, balanced diet of fresh, organic, whole foods
- Stay hydrated by drinking pure, clean water
- Get plenty of good quality sleep every night
- Take good care of your oral health by brushing and flossing, as well as seeing a holistic dentist for checkups
- Get regular exercise which can include going for a walk, doing water aerobics, or some other exercise that you enjoy
- Take care of your emotional health by managing your stress and talking to a counselor when life is too much
- Don’t forego regular self-care practices
- Minimize or eliminate the environmental toxins in your space (home, office, etc.)
The increased risk of certain cancers during pregnancy and postpartum may be a reality, but taking care of yourself and monitoring your health can help you stay on top of it so you can enjoy this special time in your life.
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