Cancer in pregnancy

3 Min Read

birth-negligenceCancer during pregnancy is rare but affects one or two pregnancies in every 1,000.

Finding out you have cancer in pregnancy is particularly devastating; it should be a time of celebration and excitement. Instead, it is an especially worrying time for the mum, her partner and family. Treatment options affect not just her, but her pregnancy, and potentially her unborn child.

Any cancer can occur during pregnancy but the most common ones are breast cancer, cervical cancer, lymphoma, melanoma and leukaemia. Cancer rarely harms the baby. If you are diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy, you will be cared for by a team involving a Midwife, Obstetrician and an Oncologist. Advice will be given to you about the best treatment options that are available to you and the timing of having that treatment.

Cancer in Pregnancy: Treatment

Some treatments are safe during pregnancy but others are not. Chemotherapy is safe after the first trimester, and some operations still can be done. Radiotherapy is rarely given. It can harm the baby, as can some of the medications. Some mothers are faced with an almost impossible choice between terminating the pregnancy to have life preserving treatment and running the risk of the cancer spreading. Treatment will depend on the nature and stage of the cancer, and how far advanced the pregnancy is. Treatment can sometimes be delayed until after the baby is delivered. The baby will often be delivered early, in order that treatment can commence as soon as possible.

Cancer: Delays in Diagnosis

Symptoms of cancer are often mistaken for symptoms of the pregnancy itself. For example, women will often experience changes in their breasts that are similar to those caused by breast cancer. So cancer in a pregnant woman can be missed.

Fortunately, cancer in pregnancy is rare, and we see very few cases of delayed diagnosis. Where there are delays, they tend to be where symptoms are wrongly thought to be due to the pregnancy. Delay in diagnosis can lead to the cancer spreading. Sometimes people die as a result.

Cancer: Claims for Damages

Where people suffer a worse outcome because of an avoidable delay in diagnosis, they may be entitled to damages. Such cases are complex and require specialist legal skills. Compensation doesn’t make living with cancer, or having lost a loved one to cancer, any easier, but it can ease the financial strain.


This article was written by Ceri-Ann Taylor who is a Clinical Negligence Solicitor at Enable Law in Taunton. Ceri specialises in cases involving the delay in diagnosis of cancer, and cases involving cancer in pregnancy. Should you wish to speak to Ceri, she will be happy to offer you a free consultation and she can be contacted on 03303 116 855 or 07880 384 667.