There are two words that, when put together, create instant panic, fear, and worry: pregnancy and cancer.
The biggest question mothers-to-be who are facing a gynecological cancer and requiring chemotherapy for treatment is, "Will it harm my baby?"
In a new study released on February 10, Frederic Amant, PhD, and colleagues at University Hospitals Leuven in Leuven, Belgium, reported in The Lancet Oncology that "Children exposed to chemotherapy in utero showed no delay in growth or increase in problems with their central nervous system, heart, or hearing compared with the general population."
In other reviews, The Lancet concluded that "pregnancy should be preserved whenever possible with breast and gynecologic cancers, although hematologic cancers can be a problem in the first trimester."
As Philippe Morice, MD, of Institut Gustave Roussy in Villejuif, France, and colleagues noted, "True oncological emergencies in pregnant patients are rare (except for leukemia)." Therefore, the timing of treatment and delivery is crucial.
In fact, Amant and his team found that among the 70 children studied, premature delivery was a greater risk factor than chemotherapy exposure in terms of cognitive development. Other assessments were performed for the children exposed in utero to chemotherapy, including behavior, overall health, hearing, and growth, and their results came up normal.
This is good news for expectant mothers facing cancer treatment during their pregnancies. They and their physicians now have data that show the benefits of maternal treatment are not outweighed by any long-term cardiac or neurological function consequences for the exposed fetus.
To read the study abstract, see: Long-term cognitive and cardiac outcomes after prenatal exposure to chemotherapy in children aged 18 months or older: an observational study.
Treating Cancer OK During Pregnancy