The last thing many of us are expecting to hear when we are pregnant is the word cancer, but for some women this is a reality. However, new research which looked into the effects of drugs or radiation on unborn babies found that pregnant women don’t have to worry about starting treatment immediately.
The study which was conducted by Frederic Amant, a professor and gynaecological oncologist at University Hospitals Leuven in Belgium and his team, looked at 129 children aged between one and three who had been exposed to prenatal cancer treatment. The results of the findings showed that of those who participated all showed the same mental processes and heart function developments as their peers.
89 of the children studied were exposed to chemotherapy before birth, four to radiotherapy, seven to chemo and radiotherapy, 13 to surgery and one each to cancer drugs herceptin and interferon beta. The last 14 mothers did not receive any treatment during their pregnancy.
Talking about the research, which as presented at the European Cancer Congress in Vienna, Professor Frederic Amant 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."
However, he did urge caution stating that they couldn’t guarantee that all types of chemotherapy are safe.
The results also showed that babies of mothers who had cancer during pregnancy are more likely to be premature, regardless of whether treatment was given.
Highlighting the significance of the findings, Peter Naredi and oncologist not involved in the research, said: "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."