New research on the effect of chemotherapy drugs on mother and unborn child proves that the cancer fighting drugs do not appear to harm the child in the womb but pre-term delivery done to prevent them from exposure to chemotherapy treatment might be harmful.
Frederic Amant, a gynecological oncologist at the University Hospitals Leuven in Belgium, who led the small research and presented his findings at the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress (EMCC) in Stockholm said that the baby in the womb of a woman fighting cancer was not affected by chemotherapy and his mental and physical development appeared normal. Comparatively it was more harmful for the child if the birth was premature either naturally or induced.
The result further ensures that cancer patients need not worry about abortions or delay the chemotherapy treatment beyond the first trimester. He said, if at all, doctors should rather worry about premature births and avoid it if possible.
In Europe there are about 25,000 to 50,000 women who are diagnosed with cancer and for moms-to-be the condition is doubly traumatic because they not just worry about the disease that might affect their unborn child, but also the rigorous treatment advised to fight cancer that might also lead to development problems for the growing fetus.
But Amant’s research, though done in a small group of women, falsifies many of these worries. He stresses that many women opt for abortion thinking that their cancer might pose problems to the baby. He also says that doctors too advise sometimes either to delay the treatment or go for premature delivery mostly around 32 weeks of gestation.
According to his research if chemotherapy is given after 12-14 weeks of pregnancy, only a fragment of the chemo reaches the placenta and the drugs that do reach the fetus do not appear to cause any developmental problems.
Among the 70 children born from 68 pregnancies in the study, around two-thirds were delivered before 37 weeks gestation. He found that the rate and types of congenital defects among the babies were similar to those found in babies born of women without cancer. He also found no heart abnormalities.
Pointing to the affects of premature birth, what the team also found was that while cognitive development — measured by scores such as intelligence quotient (IQ) and behavioral tests — was in the normal range for most of the children, those that had below normal IQs were mainly those born prematurely.
Amant says that it is already known through various previous researches that premature birth might lead to delayed development abilities in children. A recent research even says that a 1 to 2 weeks earlier birth than the normal 40 weeks gestation period might lead to development learning difficulties.
The research, though, added further that because the number of women studied in the research was small he would like to further carry out the study in a larger group and further prove the findings.
“At this stage we do not know the full, long-term consequences of prenatal chemotherapy, including its effect on the children’s fertility and likelihood of developing cancers when they are older,” he said
If the research succeeds to establish that chemotherapy does not harm the baby in any way, it can lead to many women fighting cancer, brave the condition and treat it in a less stressful manner.
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