Management of ovarian cancer during pregnancy

Date :19/02/20

Management of ovarian cancer during pregnancy

The nine months of pregnancy can be an exciting part of a woman’s life. However, this could become challenging if diagnosed with cancer. Cancer that begins in the ovaries is known as ovarian cancer. Usually, surgery and chemotherapy would help treat ovarian cancer.

Ovarian Cancer


  • Abdominal bloating or swelling
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Discomfort in the pelvic area
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Urinating frequently
  • Quickly feeling full while eating
  • Fatigue
  • Back pain
  • Heartburn
  • Ovarian tumor while pregnant

Generally, the ovarian masses found during pregnancy are not considered to be malignant. Normally, the doctor would be able to identify whether it is cancerous or not based on which the treatment would be suggested. If it is non-cancerous, then the fetus is in a safe zone as with the necessary treatment, the doctor can rectify the issue. At times, doctors would suggest preserving fertility with the help of conservative surgery so that they could be helpful for the future. It is observed that certain cysts would appear and disappear on their own. However, if the cysts subside by the second trimester, then it would be due to early pregnancy.


Treatment for ovarian cancer during pregnancy would often be individualized. Usually, laparoscopy and laparotomy would be performed to remove a section of the mass for biopsy, and if there is fluid, then it would be sent for a cytology report. These tests would help determine if the mass is cancerous or benign, as well as the grade and stage of cancer. Doctors would suggest X-rays and MRIs test for cancer during pregnancy, as this is considered to be a safe way. CT scans are not recommended during pregnancy.

If cancer is diagnosed early, then the doctor would perform a unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy that would leave the ovary and fallopian tube on the other side to preserve fertility. Chemotherapy would be recommended in the second or third trimesters. At times, it would be postponed until after birth for safety measures. Surgery in the first trimester might cause miscarriage. Hence, doctors would wait until the 16th - 20th gestational week for conservative surgery.

If the cancer is in an advanced stage, often, the treatment should be continued. Full debulking surgery is possible without disrupting the fetus, but there could be certain risks involved with more invasive surgery. Radiation therapy is considered to be dangerous at any time during pregnancy. Hence, doctors will not suggest it.

At Guru Multispeciality Hospital (Madurai), the doctor and his team would help diagnose the issue on time to save the mother and her baby.

Blog reviewed by: Dr. B. Kalpana
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M.D(O&G) FNB(Reproductive Medicine), FICOG

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