03 October 2014

Cancer treatments in pregnancy safe for offspring

Small studies have found chemo and radiation given after first trimester not to raise health risks for children.


Children whose mothers undergo chemotherapy or radiation for cancer during pregnancy are not at increased risk for mental development or heart problems, two small studies suggest.

Read: Chemotherapy appears to be safe in pregnancy

Some doctors are reluctant to administer these treatments to pregnant women due to concerns about the potential impact the therapies may have on their children, the study authors noted.

In one study, researchers assessed 38 children (median age 2) born to mothers who underwent chemotherapy during pregnancy and found the children had normal mental development and heart function.

"When chemotherapy is administered after the first trimester of pregnancy, we cannot discern any problems in the children," study author Dr. Frederic Amant, of University Hospitals Leuven in Belgium, said in a European Society for Medical Oncology news release.

"Fear about the risks of chemotherapy administration should not be a reason to terminate a pregnancy, delay cancer treatment for the mother, or to deliver a baby prematurely," Amant added.

Read: Mammograms and cancer

In a second study, Amant and colleagues looked at 16 children and 10 adults whose mothers underwent radiation therapy during pregnancy. The participants had normal mental, behavioral and general health outcomes.

The studies were presented this week at a European Society for Medical Oncology meeting in Madrid. Research presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

The findings should help doctors and pregnant women with cancer make decisions in a difficult situation, Amant said.

Read more:
Breast cancer: a single mom's journey to recovery
Tips for parents of children with cancer

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