A new study has come out stating that pregnant women who have breast cancer may no longer have to worry about increased risk to themselves or their fetus if they undergo treatment while pregnant. According to a press release:
Pregnant women treated for breast cancer are more likely to survive than patients of the same age not pregnant when cancer was diagnosed, a U.S. study found.
Five years after their diagnosis almost 74 of the women diagnosed with breast cancer during pregnancy were still alive, while of those who were not pregnant when they got treatment, 55.75 percent survived to the five-year mark, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.
The study to be presented at a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Washington is likely to help lay to rest the lingering belief that pregnancy is a uniquely dangerous time for a woman to discover breast cancer.
Pregnant women diagnosed with breast cancer were long urged to terminate a pregnancy or to wait until giving birth to begin aggressive treatment.
The report supports a widespread shift in medical practice that says a pregnant breast cancer patient can begin chemotherapy as soon as her first trimester is over and resume treatment with radiation, follow-on chemotherapy or surgery after the baby’s birth.
The study findings are important, researchers say, since more women are choosing to start or complete families later in life, thus increasing the chances that breast cancer and pregnancy could coincide.
Anti-choice advocates are taking this to be a sign that abortion is no longer ever necessary when a pregnant woman has cancer. But some are actually bemoaning the idea that women are having treatment at all rather than “sacrificing” their health for the sake of the fetus.
Dismissing the premise that abortion is necessary when the mother’s life is in medical danger, [Pro Life Action League Executive Director Eric Scheidler] emphasized, “We need a broader prospective, a spiritual prospective.”
According to Scheidler, that prospective starts with a doctor who values a human life and considers the fetus as a client. It also requires that mothers consider self-sacrifice.
“At least consider the possibility of sacrifice,” he advised. “That used to be considered a noble thing. Now people consider you insane when you talk about sacrificing yourself. At least consider the option of sacrifice even if that sacrifice is [no] treatment for the duration of the pregnancy for yourself.”
Of course, the article claims that there is no difference in birth defect rates for babies who were born from mothers undergoing chemotherapy than regular births. What the article fails to mention is that is only the case if the drugs are not taken during the first trimester. But perhaps that’s just a sacrifice the fetus should be expected to take, as well. After all, it’s the “noble thing” to do.
It would be wonderful if all pregnant women diagnosed with cancer had the ability to wait to have treatment, since the majority of those pregnancies are likely planned and wanted. But to advocate that doctors should always put the fetus first and then just hope that the mother can hold on until after it’s born to get treatment is unconscionable, and to call it the “noble” option is in no way “pro-life.”