Cancer and Pregnancy


Cancer during pregnancy is uncommon. An estimated 1 out of 1,000 women each year are diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy.  Patients who have cancer may become pregnant before or during their cancer treatment.

The most common cancers during pregnancy are:

  • Breast cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Lymphoma
  • Melanoma
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD)

These high-risk pregnancies are complex, with unique challenges for the mother and her healthcare providers.

If you are pregnant and have been diagnosed with cancer, understand your options. And get expert care from providers with experience treating pregnant women with cancer.

Diagnosing Cancer during Pregnancy / Discovering Pregnancy during Cancer Care

Cancer may be diagnosed during routine pregnancy care or pregnancy may be discovered during ongoing treatment for cancer.

You and your healthcare team will need to determine the safest diagnostic testing, such as X-rays, CT scans, ultrasound, or biopsies, to confirm and assess the cancer without putting your baby at risk.

Cancer Treatment during Pregnancy

In general, the approach to treatment should be:

  1. Identify the optimal cancer treatment for you
  2. Modify treatment modalities to be equally effective while minimizing the risks to your baby

Treatment during pregnancy will require constant, collaborative decision-making with your healthcare providers to simultaneously treat your cancer and care for your pregnancy.

Treatment should include:

  • An individualized plan of care based on the type, size, location, and stage of the cancer, the gestational age of the fetus, and the woman’s personal preferences
  • Specialized care from a maternal-fetal medicine physician, an OB/GYN who specializes in managing high-risk pregnancies, with experience treating pregnant women with cancer
  • A multidisciplinary healthcare team, including maternal-fetal medicine specialists, oncologists, radiation therapists, critical care specialists, hematologists and others, all collaborating on critical decisions that balance the needs of mother and baby
  • Careful planning and risk assessment of the treatment options, such as surgery and chemotherapy, and timing
  • Close monitoring of treatment side effects
  • Support services and resources for the expectant mom and her family

Benefits of Specialized Care

If you are pregnant and have cancer, or a history of cancer, Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women offers maternal-fetal medicine specialists experienced in managing these rare, complex pregnancies.

Our patients benefit from: 

  • Experts who helped pioneer the treatment of pregnant women with cancer and establish much-needed treatment guidelines, offering new hope to women and their babies
  • Proven experience coordinating the multidisciplinary care required to optimize survival rates and pregnancy outcomes
  • Fertility preservation for cancer patients at The Family Fertility Center located at the Pavilion for Women
  • Specialized support for the emotional challenges of cancer during pregnancy, from physicians at The Women’s Place - Center for Reproductive Psychiatry, a unique program dedicated to the care and treatment of women’s reproductive mental health
  • Access to gynecologic oncologists for pregnant women diagnosed with gynecologic cancers, such as cervical cancer
  • Preconception counseling for women with a history of cancer, to assess maternal and fetal risks before pregnancy