By Dave Andrusko
Fabulous news! A study presented Monday at the European Cancer Congress in Vienna and published simultaneously in The New England Journal of Medicine found that pregnant women who are diagnosed with cancer do not need to delay treatment or abort their babies.
“Our results show that fear of cancer treatment is no reason to terminate a pregnancy, that maternal treatment should not be delayed and that chemotherapy can be given,” said Professor Frederic Amant, a gynecological oncologist at the University Hospitals Leuven in Belgium. “The study also shows that children suffer more from prematurity than from chemotherapy, so avoiding prematurity is more important than avoiding chemotherapy.”
Prof. Amant noted, “In most cases, they were born prematurely due to a medical decision to induce preterm so as to continue cancer treatment after the delivery.” His conclusion? “Prematurity is a problem for these children, but chemotherapy is not.”
The study included 129 children in Europe whose mothers were diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy and whose babies were exposed to chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both and a control group of 129 children born to women who did not have cancer.
The babies were tested at 18 months and three years. According to HealthDay reporter Robert Preidt,
“Compared to the control group of children, we found no significant differences in mental development among children exposed to chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery alone or no treatment,” said Professor Amant and Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital in the Netherlands.
“Nor was the number of chemotherapy cycles during pregnancy, which ranged from one to ten, related to the outcome of the children,” he added in a news release from the European Cancer Organization.
The cognitive findings were based on a neurological exam and a test called the Bayley Scales of Infant Development, the New York Times reported. More than half of the mothers “had breast cancer, and 16 percent had blood cancers.”
Professor Peter Naredi, scientific co-chair of the European Cancer Congress, said, “These latest results should be reassuring for pregnant women who have been diagnosed with cancer and who will, naturally, be worrying about the best course of action not only for themselves but for their unborn child.”
Added Naredi, who was not involved in the study, “While further follow-up of these children is required, the important message at this stage seems to be that doctors should not only start cancer treatment immediately, but should also try to maintain the pregnancy to as near full term as possible.”