Cancer during pregnancy fortunately does not occur often: only one in 1000-2000 women will experience cancer during pregnancy. This does, however, mean that most gynecologists and oncologists do not have a lot of experience treating these patients, and the patients they do encounter present with a wide variety of tumor types, making each individual case even more unique.
Physicians face a difficult decision: should treatment occur immediately – leaving the patient with a better prognosis - or should treatment be postponed for as long as possible to avoid harming the unborn child?
“We believe that every patient with cancer deserves the best care possible, even if her unique situation does not allow for the standard treatment,” Christianne explains.
Until ten years ago, most women diagnosed with cancer had to terminate their pregnancies or give birth prematurely, in order to start treatment. Since then, much research has been done on cancer treatment during pregnancy, both within the Netherlands Cancer Institute and elsewhere. These studies have shown us that it is possible to start treatment during the early stages of pregnancy.
Doctors and patients alike can benefit from the Advisory Board’s guidelines in the process of shared decision-making when facing difficult choices. All physicians involved also acquire new knowledge through their work with the Advisory Board, which will further aid the treatment of cancer in pregnancy. These benefits will be further amplified once more countries join forces, Christianne Lok knows.
Back in 2012, such an advisory board did not exist anywhere in the world. Nowadays, some other European countries have followed suit and set up their own team, with the support of the Dutch Advisory Board.
The Netherlands Cancer Institute Board of Directors founded the Patient Impact Award in 2018 to highlight all groundbreaking clinical innovations at the NKI. This involves clinical innovations that have made or are expected to make, significant improvements in diagnostics, treatment, or quality of life for people with cancer. They are all based on a therapeutic concept or scientific discovery developed at the Netherlands Cancer Institute itself.