A diagnosis of cancer is devastating to a mother who is often overjoyed by the prospect of parenthood. Because the diagnosis of cancer during pregnancy is a relatively rare complication, 1 in 1,000 pregnancies, large-randomized-controlled trials are difficult to conduct. As a result, data is noticeably absent to support definitive treatment guidelines (Pavlidis, 2002; Pereg, Koren, & Lishner, 2008). Although there are no definitive guidelines for treatment, researchers agree that management of the disease must be patient specific (Van Calsteren et al., 2010). The purpose of this paper is to present current options for management of cancer during pregnancy and to discuss the ethical issues of beneficence, nonmaleficence and autonomy of the mother and fetus related to the treatment options. It is my opinion there will be two areas of nursing practice that will see the impact of cancer during pregnancy – oncology nursing and obstetric nursing. Oncology nurses will see a rise in pregnant patients and obstetric nurses will see a rise in oncology patients because these patients are one in the same. A rise in cancer during pregnancy will require that nurses become cross-disciplinary. With cross-disciplinary training, the nurse will be better equipped to handle this delicate situation. A nurse who is educated in both obstetrics and oncology will be able to provide answers to questions that are unique to a patient who is battling cancer while being pregnant.
Until new medications are established or the safety of current treatments on a fetus is solidly established, the nursing community must be aware of the treatment decisions that must be made.
Kayla M. Dudley is from Topeka, Kansas. While in nursing school she was a member of the School of Nursing Honors Program. She was the recipient of the Level I Clinical Excellence Award for her outstanding performance in the clinical setting. She is the recipient of the Arthur and Leora Peck, the Mary Hatheway Abell, and the Maude Landis Scholarships. She is a member of Delta Chapter Sigma Theta Tau International.
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