Some cancer symptoms may be similar to certain physical changes that happen during pregnancy. If you're pregnant, always tell your midwife, pregnancy doctor (obstetrician) or GP about any new symptoms.

Cancer symptoms and body changes during pregnancy

The symptoms will depend on the type of cancer. Pregnancy does not change the symptoms of a cancer. But some cancer symptoms may be similar to changes that happen to a woman’s body in pregnancy. This may delay a cancer diagnosis.

Some examples of these symptoms are:

  • A woman’s breast tissue changes during pregnancy. A lump or change in the breast can also be a symptom of breast cancer.
  • Women may have some vaginal bleeding during pregnancy. Vaginal bleeding can also be a symptom of cancer of the cervix.
  • Lymphomas or blood cancers such as leukaemia may cause tiredness and breathlessness. Pregnant women sometimes have these symptoms.
  • Some women develop new moles during pregnancy, or existing moles may get bigger. These changes can also be symptoms of a skin cancer called melanoma.
  • Bowel changes, such as constipation and haemorrhoids (piles), are more common during pregnancy. Constipation and bleeding from the back passage (rectum) can also be symptoms of bowel cancer.

When to talk to your doctor

If you have any symptoms that may be linked to cancer or other medical conditions, always get them checked by your GP. This includes:

  • chest pain
  • feeling breathless
  • changes to your heartbeat.

You should have the same checks you would have if you were not pregnant to find the cause of your symptoms.

The earlier cancer is diagnosed, the more successful treatment is. So it is important to tell your doctor if you have:

Routine pregnancy checks can show if you need any other tests. A blood test during pregnancy can help to diagnose leukaemia.

Always tell your midwife, pregnancy doctor (obstetrician) or GP about any new symptoms. If you think these symptoms need further checks, ask about the referral guidelines for suspected cancer. If you want to, you can ask to see another doctor or to be referred to a specialist.

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