Pregnancy should not delay cancer treatment, study suggests

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Women whose cancer is diagnosed while pregnant can start cancer treatment immediately and do not need to terminate the pregnancy due to concerns over harm to the fetus, a new study published online ahead of print in The New England Journal of Medicine has shown.

For the international, case-control study, researchers compared children age 12 to 42 months who mothers received a cancer diagnosis during pregnancy with matched children of women without cancer.

Of the 129 children identified, 96 were exposed to chemotherapy, 11 to radiotherapy, 13 to surgery alone, and 2 to other drug treatment. Fourteen were not exposed to treatment.

Results showed that prenatal exposure to maternal cancer with or without treatment did not negatively affect cardiac, cognitive, or general development of children in early childhood.

"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. The study also shows that children suffer more from prematurity than from chemotherapy, so avoiding prematurity is more important than avoiding chemotherapy," said lead author Frédéric Amant, MD, PhD, a gynecological oncologist at the University Hospitals Leuven in Belgium and at Antoni van Leeuwenhoek in The Netherlands.

For patients with terminal cancer, chemotherapy does not improve quality of life
Women whose cancer is diagnosed while pregnant can start cancer treatment immediately and do not need to terminate the pregnancy.
Women who are pregnant when diagnosed with cancer can start treatment for their disease immediately and do not need to terminate their pregnancy due to worries over the effects of therapy on the development of their child.
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