Cancer and pregnancy: poena magna, not anymore

Eur J Cancer. 2006 Jan;42(2):126-40. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2005.10.014. Epub 2005 Dec 2.


Cancer diagnosed during pregnancy constitutes a difficult clinical condition with a devastating impact on the patient's somatic and psychosocial health and possibly on foetal integrity. This circumstance also raises several moral, religious, social and familial dilemmas. In this review we critically present available evidence regarding the incidence, epidemiology and genetics of cancer in pregnant women, its presentation, diagnosis and staging as well as therapeutic management. Issues such as maternal/foetal prognosis, need for termination of pregnancy, risk of foetal health injury and necessity of psychosocial support are reviewed. Recent accumulating evidence suggests that, with appropriate management, poena magna should not be used to define neither cancer nor pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Neoplastic* / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy Complications, Neoplastic* / drug therapy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Neoplastic* / radiotherapy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis
  • Safety
  • Social Support


  • Antineoplastic Agents