This article is not a manual for pregnant women. Always discuss any treatments with your doctor and cancer support team.
Pregnancy and cancer overview
No reason to fear: Treating cancer while pregnant
Pregnancy is a joyous occasion, full of wonder and expectation. However, the diagnosis of cancer in the midst of pregnancy can overshadow your joy. The good news is researchers have been studying the effects of cancer treatment on infants during pregnancy and after birth.
One in 3,000 women will be diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy this year. (1) As women continue to delay starting a family due to various reasons, the cancer risk increases with every passing year. The most common cancers seen during pregnancy include breast cancer and blood cancers (leukemia and lymphoma).
Dispelling past beliefs
In the past, when a pregnant woman was given the diagnosis of cancer, the prognosis was poor. Since cancer, especially breast cancer, can be more aggressive during pregnancy, then an aggressive treatment must be used. The risk of birth defects increased and abortion was usually the recommendation.
A study published in Current Oncology in 2015 stated, “Some studies indicate that prognosis in advanced-stage cancer is worse in the pregnancy-associated group than in a stage-matched non-pregnant group, especially for women more than 35 years of age and for those diagnosed within 1 year postpartum.” (2)
The future did look bleak for many women desiring to start a family and battling cancer at the same time. Many women that took the route of therapeutic abortion had to deal with the aftermath of emotions and psychological turmoil of both losing a child and fighting cancer. (4)
Research studies to confirm safety during pregnancy
One such study led by Dr. Frederic Amant of University Hospitals Leuven in Belgium studied the long-term effects on children born to mothers given cancer treatments during pregnancy. The study was performed on children in the range of 12 months to 42 months old. (3) All 129 children were given a neurological examination at 18 or 36 months, or both. A cardiac assessment was performed at the 36-month mark. (3)
96 of the children in the study were exposed to chemotherapy while in the womb:
- 11 were exposed to radiotherapy
- 13 were exposed to surgery alone
- 2 to other cancer treatments
- 14 were not exposed to any treatment at all
- Some of the 96 children that were exposed to chemotherapy treatment may have also been exposed to a combo treatment (chemo plus an additional drug).
Conclusion of the study
The result of the study performed proves that prenatal exposure to cancer treatments does not impair the child in cognitive, cardiac, or general development in the early childhood years.
“There was no significant between-group difference in cognitive development on the basis of the Bayley score (P=0.08) or in subgroup analyses. The gestational age at birth was correlated with the cognitive outcome in the two study groups.” (3)
Treatments for cancer while pregnant
Certain treatments are still not deemed safe, so take precautions and consult your oncologist before beginning any treatment while pregnant. The first trimester does pose a great risk to the fetus as this is a pertinent development time period. Due to the danger of damage to the fetus, studies have not been done during the first trimester.
However, studies do show chemotherapy treatment in the second and third trimesters does not increase the risk of birth defects. Breast biopsy, mastectomy, and lymph node removal can be done safely. If you require breast-conserving surgery (BCS) it can be done, however, the radiation that typically follows would need to be scheduled after birth.(1)
Radiation, hormone, and targeted therapy cannot be performed until after birth. It is advised not to breastfeed your baby if you are receiving any cancer treatment as is can pass through the breast milk. (1)
Alternative oncology proponents suggest that the safest course of action is to avoid all alternative cancer treatments that target cancer cells directly until the child is born. This means pregnant women should focus on alternative cancer treatments that treat cancer cells indirectly, such as those that build the immune system.
Consult with your oncologist on the best approach to treating your cancer. The future is looking bright for mothers and their babies!
Pregnancy, Foods, and Supplements
CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE TAKING ANY UNUSUAL SUPPLEMENTS OR UNUSUALLY HIGH DOSAGES OF NORMAL SUPPLEMENTS.
The things a mother eats, and doesn't eat, and puts on her body, both during pregnancy and during breastfeeding can have a profound effect on the intellect, memory, mental problems, etc. of their baby. Early childhood problems such as ADD, ADHD, brain cancer, autism, etc. may be primarily caused by the things a mother eats and doesn't eat, during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
This is a partial list of the good, the bad and the ugly things. It is not a complete list, but it includes the things that seem to be the most critical. Don't forget to study the entire list and look at the links at the bottom of the article.
The Very Good
Regarding the things that should be eaten:
CHOLINE (DO NOT CONFUSE THIS WITH CHLORINE)
- “Maternal choline levels are critical for fetal brain development, indicated the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study in a supplement to the October Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Rat pups that received choline supplements in utero exhibited lifelong memory enhancement. This improvement in memory function may reflect improved hippocampal development. Translating the results to humans, the author suggested that eating one or two eggs a day could help pregnant women maintain the appropriate choline levels for fetal development.” ~ Neurology Reviews
Non-animal sources of choline (which is one of the B vitamins) include cauliflower, grape juice, and cabbage.
Soy is also a plant source of choline may be best to avoid soy as it has been linked to hormone disruption and possible thyroid issues.
While all neonatal multivitamins contain folate, a pregnant woman should get half or more of her folate from natural sources. Natural sources include: free-range organic eggs, oranges, fresh squeezed orange juice, juices juiced at home in your own juicer, leafy green vegetables, beans, legumes, broccoli, asparagus, peas, split peas, lentils, barley, bran, brown rice, raw milk cheese from 100 percent pasture-raised cows, free-range: chicken, lamb, liver, dates, raw milk from 100 percent pasture-raised cows, mushrooms, root vegetables , wild salmon, wild cold water fish, and whole grains (but avoid gluten grains when pregnant and nursing because grain allergies are passed on to the unborn child and a nursing infant).
Yeast also contains folate but has been linked to many health issues including overgrowth of Candida and other fungi.
Peanuts are a legume that may carry a fungus even if it's organic and is not the best source of folate.
Additionally, pork provides folate but also carries some health concerns. Finally, tuna also provides folate but has very high mercury levels especially if it’s been canned.
OMEGA-3: EFA AND DHA
Another nutrient critical for fetal brain development is omega-3. The very long chain omega-3s can be obtained by eating wild cold water fish, especially wild salmon; always avoid farm-raised fish. Sea algae is another source of the DHA. But perhaps the easiest way to supplement EFA and DHA is to take a tablespoon or more of very high-quality cod liver oil which is high in EFA and DHA. The less critical forms of omega-3 can be obtained from flaxseed (e.g.flaxseed oil) and walnuts.
It is impossible to underestimate the importance of methyl molecules to a new fetus. They are critical to cell development, the immune system, the nervous system and a host of other chemical reactions in the developing fetus. In nature, MSM is found in mother’s breast milk and in fruits.
Another critical substance for pregnant women is iodine. While a woman might think to get iodine from iodized table salt (which is refined salt and has been stripped of all nutrients), it would be far better to get iodine from unrefined natural sea salts. Find supplements that contain the full complement of trace minerals, and nutrients with kelp added, organic sea vegetables are good food sources of iodine available dry and fresh.
NATURAL VITAMIN E
Virtually all neonatal multi-vitamins include Vitamin E. However, virtually all of them include synthetic Vitamin E. Natural and synthetic Vitamin E is not the same. Previous research has shown natural vitamin E is better retained and more biologically active than synthetic. To identify the kind of vitamin E in a supplement, it is necessary to read the ingredients listed on the label. Natural vitamin E begins with “d,” as in “d-alpha-tocopherol.” The synthetic version begins with “dl.”
SUNLIGHT (I.E. VITAMIN D)
ALPHA LIPOIC ACID (E.G. LIPOIC ACID)
The Very Bad
Trans-fatty acids are also called “hydrogenated oils” because the hydrogenation process is how TFAs are created. The hydrogenation process changes the chemical structure of certain fats and creates a molecule which can cause a whole host of health problems.
Even if foods are [labeled], studies show some babies are still getting high doses of trans because their mothers are eating it. Research from the University of British Columbia shows trans fats pass through the placenta to the fetus. In Europe, another study found that the higher the trans in the diet of pregnant women, the more likely they were to give birth prematurely and have smaller babies. Once born, the trans fat ingested by mothers is passed to their babies through breast milk. In fact, a study by Health Canada found Canadian breast milk contained some of the highest levels of trans reported.
“I have grave concerns about the fat type in the diet of pregnant and lactating mothers and our young children right through to adulthood,” says Bruce Holub, a nutrition researcher at the University of Guelph.
(It is important to note that during the first two years of life infants and toddlers need a high-fat diet, but the processed fats should not be the food of choice. Low-fat foods are not appropriate in the first two years of a child's growth.)
GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS (GMOS)
Avoid all GMO crops i.e. corn, soy, sugar, aspartame, canola and cottonseed oils, dairy with rBGH, papaya, zucchini, and yellow squash, etc.
Sadly, the list keeps getting longer with new GMO crops being developed. If you’re pregnant, want to get pregnant, dealing with health issues, have autoimmune, or cancer you must definitely avoid GMO crops and foods prepared with GMO ingredients. Look for the Non-GMO logo on packaged foods and buy organic or grow your own organic garden.
The initial scientific data – which will get far worse in the decades to come – is already connecting genetic modification to countless health and environmental problems:
- Increased risk of cancer
- Increased risk of allergies
- Infertility and birth defects
- Changes to internal organs
- Rapid aging
- Bugs and weeds resistant to prior controls
- Death of insects crucial to environmental balance
Castor oil has been taken orally to induce labor and to be avoided until the baby is full term and only when the mother needs help to induce labor. It should always be done under medical supervision or with a trained midwife. It has been considered a better natural option for labor-inducing drugs.
Alcohol causes “Fetal Alcohol Syndrome,” which is actually several different diseases that can result in brain damage, caused by a mother drinking alcohol while pregnant. It has been shown that a single intoxication can cause brain damage to a fetus. Furthermore, alcohol can stay in the body for up to 3 months.
Does smoking even need to be mentioned? Or caffeine? All of these things are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of dangers to unborn children. The links below will discuss many of the more common substances that can cause serious or fatal damage to a fetus.
Here is a good generic quote:
- “These are among research findings that Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory research associate Sharon Pottmeyer writes about it in a Web-site Hot Topic for the Parent Information Resource Center (http://www.nwrel.org/pirc/). Pottmeyer, pulling information from researchers such as Rima Shore, author of Rethinking the Brain: New Insights into Early Development, and Jane M. Healy, author of Endangered Minds, says that toxins known to cause problems or implicated in problems for the developing brain include metals such as lead, methyl mercury, arsenic, aluminum, and cadmium; environmental pollutants such as PCBs, solvents, pesticides, and some chemical fertilizers; recreational drugs that include alcohol, cocaine, codeine, methadone, and heroin; and prescription and over-the-counter drugs. The ill effects of these various drugs and toxins are most generally lowered IQs, mental retardation, attention deficits, academic learning difficulties, social problems, and central nervous system issues.”
A warning about the overuse of ultrasound
While it is true that ultrasound is far safer for both mother and baby than X-Rays, ultrasound should only be used when absolutely necessary. There is a fad in some parts of the country where ultrasound is used indiscriminately, almost for entertainment. Ultrasound can be very dangerous to a fetus. The FDA has issued a warning about the overuse of ultrasound.
The Very Ugly
MSG, HVP, CYSTEINE
MSG (monosodium glutamate), and HVP (hydrolyzed vegetable protein) Here is a partial list of foods that contain MSG. The list was compiled by Shoshanna Allison, M.T.P.:
FOOD ADDITIVES THAT ALWAYS CONTAIN MSG
- Monosodium Glutamate [MSG]
- Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein [HVP]
- Hydrolyzed Protein; Hydrolyzed Plant Protein
- Plant Protein Extract
- Sodium Caseinate
- Calcium Caseinate
- Yeast Extract
- Textured Protein (Including TVP)
- Autolyzed Yeast
- Hydrolyzed Oat Flour
- Corn Oil
FOOD ADDITIVES THAT FREQUENTLY CONTAIN MSG
- Malt Extract
- Malt Flavoring
- Natural Flavors/Flavoring
- Natural Beef or Chicken Flavoring
FOOD ADDITIVES THAT MAY CONTAIN MSG OR EXCITOTOXINS
- Soy Protein Concentrate
- Soy Protein Isolate
- Whey Protein Concentrate
CHEMICALS IN COSMETICS AND TOILETRIES
Numerous cosmetics and toiletries, such as perfumes, deodorants, hair spray, hair shampoo, toothpaste, etc. contain chemicals that are dangerous to a fetus and nursing infant.Try to use products that have few, if any, added chemicals. That is difficult to do because the chemicals in a product are rarely mentioned.