The Practice of Oncology and Pregnancy

The time of extreme joy and expectancy of pregnancy can be overshadowed by a diagnosis of cancer in a pregnant woman. Whether the condition was present before conception, or only became evident through prenatal testing, cancer is by far the scariest word to most people. When it comes to being pregnant with cancer, the fears are magnified because there are two people involved in the diagnosis, the mother and the baby.

Many Pregnancies Are Safe In Spite of Cancer

At one point in time, especially during the 1950s and 1960s, it was believed to be necessary to terminate a pregnancy in order to improve the outcome. However, it is now proven that terminating a pregnancy does result in an improved diagnosis. Apart from pelvic surgery, most surgical techniques that are used in non-pregnant women to remove malignancies, are also safe for pregnant women. Depending upon the stage of the disease and the pregnancy trimester, different types of chemotherapy can often be administered without hazards. A woman with advanced stage cervical cancer may be facing termination of her pregnancy, but the number of women in this predicament is small, which means that the baby's life can usually be saved.

Defining Cancer

Cancer, the medical term for which is malignant neoplasm, is defined by Wikipedia as a "class of diseases in which a group of cells displays uncontrolled growth (division beyond the normal limits), invasion (intrusion on and destruction of adjacent tissues), and sometimes metastasis (spread to other locations in the body via lymph or blood). These three malignant properties of cancers differentiate them from benign tumors, which are self-limited, and do not invade or metastasize. Most cancers form a tumor but some, like leukemia, do not. The branch of medicine concerned with the study, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer is oncology".

What is an Oncologist?

A doctor who specializes in the treatment of cancer is called an oncologist. While he or she may decide to specialize in one particular type of cancer, an oncologist must be fully trained in the various types of cancer and the best treatments for each. Hematology, the branch of internal medicine that is concerned with the study of blood, blood-forming organs, and blood diseases, figures into oncology prominently since cancer is usually carried through the blood. Hematology is a sub-specialty of internal medicine that is separate from but overlapping with the sub-specialty of oncology.

Oncology Nursing

Oncology nursing requires proper qualifications and knowledge in the specialty of oncology. Just as an oncologist can study for and specialize in a specific type of cancer and its treatment, an oncology nurse is able to do the same thing. Certified oncology nursing can be focused on pediatric oncology, breast care, or, other types of cancers. If the nurse is licensed properly and meets specific eligibility criteria, including master's or higher degrees in nursing, and has a minimum of 500 hours in clinical oncology nursing (in the US), she may obtain the status of nurse practitioner.

When Does A Woman Need An Oncologist?

All practitioners involved in the study and treatment of cancer are people who have spent untold hours learning about the disease and the best treatments for it. A pregnant woman will only need to meet with an oncologist if there is a diagnosis of cancer. It is the oncologist who will determine the course of testing and treatment and who is best suited to determine what, exactly, will be necessary to bring about a satisfactory conclusion.

There are many different causes for cancer, ranging from smoking and drinking to poor diet and sexually transmitted diseases. When a woman goes for her preconception visit, the doctor will take a history and one of the things she or he is looking for is family history of cancer or blood disorders that can lead to cancer. Before conception, a woman is wise to get a prenatal checkup and have the necessary blood work done to ensure her pregnancy will not be stressed by a difficult diagnosis.

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