We previously shared the touching story of Jenni Lake, a teenager from Idaho who decided to forego treatments for cancer after she became pregnant. Jenni passed away 12 days after giving birth to her son.
A recent report, however, indicates that chemotherapy – one of the common treatments that cancer patients undergo – during pregnancy is possible. The feature retells the story of Zoila Leiva, who was diagnosed with breast cancer 4 ½ months into her pregnancy. She was 38 years old at that time, and was carrying twins.
Leiva shared: “The oncologist said, ‘The only way we can treat you, the only way we can save your life, is for you to have an abortion.”
The suggestion is not surprising, as while the drugs used in chemotherapy are toxic to tumors, they may also harm fetuses too, depending on the drug and the stage of pregnancy. Leiva’s oncologist requested that she attend an “abortion orientation” session, where she learned about the procedure that would end her pregnancy.
She realized, however, that it was an option that she was not keen on taking. “Those babies were already moving inside me,” she shared. “I couldn’t do it.”
According to a new report in The Lancet, chemotherapy may be safe for pregnant patients with breast cancer during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. In addition to this finding, the report also indicates that terminating pregnancy does not seem to improve the prognosis of a patient.
Dr. Frédéric Amant of the Leuven Cancer Institute in Belgium, lead author of the report, shared: “The situation remains challenging since in some situations an advanced cancer can be fatal for mother and fetus… The patient and her partner should be informed about the different treatment options and the physician should explain that termination of pregnancy does not seem to improve maternal outcome, but the decision to continue or end the pregnancy is a personal one.”
Leiva eventually sought a second opinion, and one oncologist agreed to put Leiva on treatment right away. Thirty-two weeks into her pregnancy, Leiva delivered her sons: Julian and Joel.