Chemotherapy may be safe in pregnancy, study reveals
Women with breast cancer should not ease up on their chemotherapy treatment while pregnant, a new study has found.
The results of the German research, published in the Lancet, found little or no evidence that undergoing a course of chemotherapy for breast cancer when pregnant led to health defects in babies.
Professor Sibylle Loibl, of the German Breast Group which led the study, said:
“If our findings are confirmed by other studies, breast cancer during pregnancy could be treated as it is in non-pregnant women without putting fetal and maternal outcomes at substantially increased risk.”
The researchers are advising the one in a thousand women receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer when pregnant, to proceed with the treatment as normal after the first trimester and not opt for an early delivery.
“Ideally, you would avoid chemotherapy in the first trimester of pregnancy.
“The thought is that the fetus is really developing at that stage and the organs are being developed,” Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York told ABC News.
The study followed 400 women, 197 of whom underwent chemotherapy. Whilst babies whose mothers received chemotherapy were lighter, they were no more at risk of birth defects, blood disorders or loss of hair.
And while babies of mothers receiving chemotherapy had more complications, the group with the highest rate of complications were those born premature.
Cases of pregnant women with breast cancer are on the increase, this is thought to be because women are choosing to have children later.
The symptoms can sometimes be confused with pregnancy symptoms, making the disease complex to treat.
Scientists have also found that high hormone levels during pregnancy do not cause the recurrence of hormone-sensitive breast cancer strains.