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Saturday 21st April 2018

Chemo safe for mums to be

30th June 2006

New research is suggesting expectant mothers with cancer can safely undergo chemotherapy without terminating their pregnancy.

For many years, the consensus in much of the medical community has been that pregnant women with breast cancer cannot undergo treatment without harming their babies — and must make a dreadful choice.

That assumption is being challenged by the results of a small observational clinical trial carried out at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in nearby Houston, which found that women with invasive breast cancer may undergo surgery and chemotherapy during pregnancy and still have healthy babies.

Under the protocol studied, chemotherapy is postponed until after the first trimester of pregnancy and radiation until after the birth.

Dr Richard Theriault, a professor of medicine in the department of breast medical oncology at M. D. Anderson presented the findings at an American Medical Association news briefing in Manhattan recently.

Though small, the study is important, said Dr. Carolyn D. Runowicz, president of the American Cancer Society and moderator of the news briefing. Each year, breast cancer is diagnosed in about 3,000 pregnant American women, but pregnant women are usually excluded from clinical trials for ethical reasons.

The trial examined the outcomes of 57 women and 57 live births. The babies were slightly smaller than average, with a mean birth weight of 6.4 pounds. And they had a slightly increased risk of neonatal complications, with 37 per cent requiring ventilator support compared with an average of 29 percent of babies born at large tertiary-care hospitals, Dr Theriault said.

Several of the babies were born with anomalies, but none was attributed to the chemotherapy regimen.

Researchers have continued to monitor the health of the children. Of 40 children, ranging from 2 to 15 years old, 39 are developing normally, the sole exception being the baby with Down syndrome.


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