There is never a good time to learn you have cancer, but a diagnosis during pregnancy seems an especially cruel blow.
The numbers are rising, too, as the average age at which women start to have children increases.
Professor Liz Sullivan, of the University of Technology Sydney, has been awarded a grant by Cancer Council NSW to investigate the extent of cancer during pregnancy and what happens next for both mothers and babies.
“Cancer diagnosed during pregnancy presents challenges to healthcare teams because there is little evidence on which to make important treatment decisions,” Professor Sullivan said.
“We don’t know enough about the incidence of cancer in pregnancy, how pregnancy affects cancer care, and the outcomes for both mother and baby.
“That makes it very difficult to balance treating the cancer with minimising harm to the mother and her unborn child. It also adds to the uncertainty and stress for the woman and her family.”
Professor Sullivan’s grant of $445,000 funds a three-year research project to be conducted across NSW.
The study will follow pregnant women newly diagnosed with cancer to examine the patterns of cancer care, the women’s experiences of this care and the outcomes for the women and their babies.
The results will be used to create patient-centred resources for pregnant women with cancer and their families, and to give healthcare teams greater insights into cancer care.
“This is an important project and we will ensure that the work translates into real benefits for people affected by cancer in pregnancy,” Professor Sullivan said.
Her project grant is one of 17 funding initiatives for 2018, worth more than $10.6 million, announced recently by Cancer Council NSW.
The recipients are “extraordinary scientists who do essential and highly innovative work”, Dr Jane Hobson, research grants manager at Cancer Council NSW, said.
“The broad range of projects that we fund – across many types of cancers and stages of the cancer journey – shows Cancer Council NSW’s commitment to work across every area of every cancer.”
The project Cancer and Outcomes in Pregnancy – A NSW Evaluation will run from 2018 to 2020.