Chemotherapy does not harm fetuses

This could be reassuring for pregnant women suffering from cancer. A first of its kind study has now found that children of women exposed to chemotherapy for cancer treatment in pregnancy develop as well as children in the general population.

Cancer complicates one in 1000-2000 pregnancies and the incidence increases by 2.5% per year. Published in the journal Lancet Oncology, the study assessed 68 pregnancies (producing 70 children) during which 236 cycles of chemotherapy were administered (on average three or four per pregnancy).

The median gestational age at cancer diagnosis was 18 weeks. The children were born at a median of 36 weeks into pregnancy, with more than two thirds of the women (47) giving birth in less than 37 weeks. The children assessed ranged in age from 1.5 to 18 years.

The authors of the study found that although neurocognitive outcomes were within normal ranges, cognitive development scores were lower for children who were born preterm than for those born at full term.

However, they emphasize that this difference is found in any group of children born prematurely, not just those in this study.

The authors say, "The decision to administer chemotherapy should follow the same guidelines as in nonpregnant patients. In practice , it is possible to give chemotherapy from 14 weeks gestational age onwards with attention to prenatal care."

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