A preliminary study suggests that for women who are pregnant, unusual results from some prenatal tests may mean that there is something wrong, not with the fetus, but with the mom to be. There are some rare cases in which the results from these tests can indicate that the women have cancer and follow up tests may indicate that the fetus is completely healthy.
Some tests are used increasingly in order to reveal abnormalities in the chromosomes of the fetus, such as Down syndrome. Doctors test the blood from the women which contains trace amounts of DNA from the fetus. However, cancer is the kind of disease that may cause erroneous test results indicating that something is wrong with the fetus.
The research was conducted with the help of more than 100,000 women blood tests, analyzed over a period of about three years in a laboratory in Redwood City, California. Around 3 percent, or 4,000 women, received results that suggested abnormalities in the chromosomes of the fetus. The babies were later found to be healthy in 10 of the cases but the women carrying the babies were diagnosed later with cancer, including colon cancer, leukemia and lymphoma.
The research focused more on eight of those 10 women. Most of those women had tests conducted prenatally which suggested abnormalities on more than one chromosome in the baby. Three women were diagnosed with cancer in a follow-up test conducted after the results of the prenatal test. Other cancers were diagnosed after the women started having symptoms. Two of the women had advanced cancer cases.
Dr. Diana Bianchi, the leader of the study said that they are uncertain as to exactly how many individuals are living with silent cancer types that this test can potentially uncover. Women should be informed about the possibility of unveiling cancers in them when seeking these prenatal tests. They should get some follow-up tests, including amniocentesis, if the results of the test should reveal that there is a problem with the fetus.
Bianchi said, however, that it shouldn’t be the case to recommend testing for cancer for all the women who receive false-positive test results. A JAMA editorial claims that more in depth research should be conducted in order to help doctors figure out exactly how to counsel the women.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
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