England – A new study has denied that cancer treatment in pregnant women results in damage for the baby. On the contrary, women can undergo treatment without worrying about terminating the pregnancy or side effects on their unborn children.

Lead scientist of the study, Dr. Frederic Aman, professor and gynecological oncologist at University Hospitals Leuven in Belgium, observed 129 children whose mothers were diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy – whether they had treatment or not – and determined that fetal exposure to maternal cancer treatments was not associated with cognitive or cardiac abnormalities.

The study found that premature children were a tendency when mothers had cancer. Sixty-one percent were born at less than 37 weeks, versus about 7 percent in the general population. Photo Gazette Review

The research focused on children from Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and the Czech Republic collecting data from obstetric, perinatal (including congenital malformations), and oncologic exams for every mother and child.  Scientist calculated birth-weight percentiles, considering the gestational age at birth, birth weight, sex, race or ethnic group, parity and maternal height and weight when available.

“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,” Dr. Amant said, as reported by People Magazine.

The Study

The prenatal exposure group was matched with another 129 children part of a control group. Both groups’ ages were ranging from 12 to 42 months and were equally distributed according to sex. The controled ones were children born to healthy mothers after uncomplicated pregnancies and deliveries.

Ninety-six children (74.4%) were exposed to chemotherapy before birth, eleven to other treatments like radiotherapy, thirteen to surgery alone and only two to other drug treatments. Fourteen children were exposed to no treatment.

Documenting the effects of prenatal exposure to maternal cancer on general health, prenatal and postnatal growth, cognitive development, and cardiac structure and function showed that these children had a normal development no different from the control group. Health problems and cognitive outcomes were similar in the prenatal exposure group and the control group, they seemed to have no relation with the number of chemotherapy cycles.

In conclusion, chemotherapy had no clear adverse effects on postnatal growth or on cognitive or cardiac function, suggesting that the diagnosis of cancer during pregnancy is not necessarily an indication to terminate the pregnancy.

Source: The New England Journal of Medicine