Chemotherapy during pregnancy does not increase newborns’ complications
Posted: 16 August 2012 by Hollie Ewers
Babies whose mothers undergo chemotherapy while pregnant do not appear to be at a greater risk of complications, according to a study.
The research, which was published online in The Lancet Oncology, examined more than 400 women who were diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer while pregnant.
Nearly half of the women (197) underwent chemotherapy during pregnancy. The authors found that, on average, the infants whose mothers had undergone chemotherapy had lower birth weights than those who had not.
Few other differences were noted between the two groups and the babies exposed to chemotherapy in utero appeared to have no higher risk of birth defects, no lower Apgar scores and no more frequent blood disorders or alopecia.
Professor Sibylle Loibl, of the German Breast Group, which led the study, believes that if their 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 number of chemotherapy cycles received during pregnancy did not appear to affect the babies’ birth weight, leading the authors to suggest that the lower birth weight is not clinically meaningful.
Professor Loibl said: ‘In the general population, about 10–15% of infants are born preterm, but in our study, 50% of women with breast cancer delivered preterm, with 23% delivering before the 35th week of gestation.
‘More complications were reported in the group of infants exposed to chemotherapy than in the group not exposed to chemotherapy. However, most complications were reported in babies who were delivered prematurely, irrespective of exposure to chemotherapy.’
She added: ‘Our findings emphasise the importance of prioritising a full-term delivery in women who undergo chemotherapy while pregnant… Our work suggests that treating patients with breast cancer while pregnant is possible, and there is no need to interrupt the pregnancy or receive inferior therapy.'