Mothers’ chemotherapy safe for unborn children, study finds
Chemotherapy during pregnancy does not lead to increased health complications for newborn infants, a new study has found.
Researchers examined a group of more than 400 women from across Europe who were diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer while pregnant.
Just under half of the mothers-to-be had chemotherapy and experts found the only difference with their newborns was a slightly lower birth weight.
The findings were welcomed by cancer charities who described the new findings as “reassuring” for women and their families who found themselves diagnosed with cancer while pregnant.
Professor Sibylle Loibl, of the German Breast Group which led the study, said: “Babies exposed to chemotherapy in utero appeared to have no higher risk of birth defects and no more frequent blood disorders than those whose mothers did not receive chemotherapy while pregnant.
“If our findings are confirmed by other studies, breast cancer during pregnancy could be treated as it is in non-pregnant women without putting foetal and maternal outcomes at substantially increased risk.”
The number of chemotherapy treatments a women had while pregnant also did not appear to cause any different side affect on her babies’ health.
The experts did find a slightly higher number of women who underwent cancer treatment had their babies slightly earlier than their due date compared with mothers who had not had cancer treatment.
But they said any complications those early babies had were the same seen in other babies born early whose mum had not had cancer.
The team concluded the children would probably have been born early irrespective of their mother’s exposure to chemotherapy.
Prof Loibl said: “Our work suggests treating patients with breast cancer while pregnant is possible, and there is no need to interrupt the pregnancy or receive inferior therapy.”
“Our findings emphasise the importance of prioritising a full-term delivery in women who undergo chemotherapy while pregnant. Illness and mortality in newborn babies is directly related to gestational age at delivery.”
The team said the number of mothers-to-be diagnosed with cancer was increasing due to the rise in women delaying having children until they are older.
Previous studies have suggested pregnant women who have chemotherapy have a 5 per cent chance of giving birth to a child with a birth defect.
They claim the cancer treatment can hinder its growth and development in the womb.Doctors say there is a range of drugs available to treat pregnant women, depending on their individual circumstances such as age, health history and how many weeks pregnant they are.
Martin Ledwick, Cancer Research UK’s head information nurse, said: “There’s already evidence women with breast cancer can safely have chemotherapy during pregnancy. So it’s reassuring for pregnant women to see new results confirm this.
“Chemotherapy for pregnant women with breast cancer is usually delayed until the second or third trimester of the pregnancy and given after the woman has had surgery to treat the disease.
“By the time pregnant women have discovered the disease they are usually likely to be in their second or third trimester.”
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