Monday, September 28, 2015

Cancer treatment doesn't harm unborn babies - new study in NEJM

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I am so excited about this study!  Think of all the times you have had someone challenge you on the hypothetical case of the pregnant mother who needs cancer treatment.  While not completely definitive it is a huge step!  Go in confidence!  Anne
Cancer treatment DOESN'T harm an unborn baby: Pregnant women advised not to delay treatment after study finds chemo and radiotherapy are not unsafe
  • The development of 129 children was tested at 18 months and three years 
  • Found to be the same as children whose mother's did not have cancer
  • Researchers say cancer treatment is no reason to terminate pregnancy
  • Study found being born prematurely had more of an effect on development
Receiving cancer treatment while pregnant does not result in health problems for unborn children, researchers have found.
Neither chemotherapy, radiotherapy nor surgery harmed the patients' babies, according to a study published today.
The researchers said that women who are diagnosed with cancer while pregnant should not delay their treatment.
Professor Frédéric Amant, presenting his results at the European Cancer Congress in Vienna, said: '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.
'The study also shows that children suffer more from prematurity than from chemotherapy, so avoiding prematurity is more important than avoiding chemotherapy.'
His team examined 129 children born after exposure to cancer treatment in the womb.
The data, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the babies - aged 18 months and then three years when they were tested - had developed normally when compared to children whose mothers had not had cancer.
Professor Amant, of University Hospitals Leuven in Belgium, said: '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.
'Nor was the number of chemotherapy cycles during pregnancy, which ranged from one to ten, related to the outcome of the children.'
The most common cancers among the mothers were breast and hematological cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma.
Some 69 per cent of the children had been exposed to chemotherapy before birth, 3.1 per cent radiotherapy, 5.4 per cent to both chemo and radiotherapy, 10.1 per cent to surgery alone.
The team also found that premature birth - a major cause of development problems - was more frequent among children born to mothers with cancer, regardless of whether or not they received treatment.
Prof Amant said: 'In most cases, they were born prematurely due to a medical decision to induce preterm so as to continue cancer treatment after the delivery.'
But he warned: 'Our data include many types of chemotherapy, but we cannot guarantee that all types of chemotherapy are safe.
'We need to look at larger numbers of children and larger numbers exposed to each drug in order to be able to document the potential effects of individual drugs.'
Martin Ledwick, head information nurse at Cancer Research UK, said: 'Although the results of the study seem encouraging, it's important to acknowledge that a range of chemotherapy drugs and other treatments were used on the mothers so it may be hard to draw firm conclusions.
'It's already known that some breast cancer drugs may be safe to give after the first three months of pregnancy but it's unclear from the study which women fitted into this category.'  
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