Women, who develop cancer during pregnancy, can have chemotherapy without jeopardizing their unborn baby. Chemotherapy won’t harm foetus and is safe during pregnancy, found researchers from the German Breast Group. About one in two thousand pregnancies are affected by cancer, and the rate is increasing by two-and-half percent a year as women have children later in life.
Even some pregnant women elect an abortion especially when they are in the early stage of pregnancy and their cancer is of aggressive nature, whereas others refuse to take any treatment until their baby is born. But, researchers believe there is no need to interrupt the pregnancy or delay treatment as there is few evidence that the baby will be affected.
Prof Sibylle Loibl and colleagues analyzed a study in which more than four hundred women from across Europe were diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer while pregnant. About half of the women underwent chemotherapy during pregnancy. The study evaluated whether the newborn babies of the treated women suffered any ill effects that could be attributable to the cancer drugs.
They found babies whose mothers had undergone chemotherapy while pregnant had, on average, a lower birth weight compared to babies whose mothers had not undergone chemotherapy. Researchers also found some other noticeable differences between the groups. Babies exposed to chemotherapy while in the womb seemed to have no higher risk of birth defects and no lower scores of wellbeing at time of birth.
Besides, there appeared to have no more recurrent blood disorders or alopecia than babies whose mothers did not receive chemotherapy while pregnant. Lead researcher Prof Loibl, explained if their 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.
In the general population, about ten to fifteen percent of babies are born preterm, but in their study, fifty percent of women with breast cancer delivered preterm, with twenty-three percent delivered prior to thirty-five weeks of gestation. More complications were reported in the group of infants exposed to chemotherapy than in the group not exposed to chemotherapy, stated Prof Loibl.
Prof Loibl added their work suggests that treating patients with breast cancer while pregnant is possible, and there is no need to interrupt the pregnancy or receive inferior therapy. The study was published in The Lancet Oncology journal.