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Chemo appears safe in pregnancy: research

STOCKHOLM--Treating pregnant cancer patients with powerful chemotherapy drugs appears not to harm their unborn children, but pre-term delivery to avoid subjecting them to chemotherapy does, according to a study by cancer experts on Tuesday.

Scientists who studied the health and mental development of children born to mothers treated for cancer in pregnancy found they were not affected by chemotherapy, but were harmed if they were born prematurely, either naturally or by induction. “The data suggest the children suffer more from prematurity than from prenatal chemotherapy,” said Frederic Amant, a gynecological oncologist at the University Hospitals Leuven in Belgium, who led the research and presented his findings at the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress (EMCC) in Stockholm.

He said the results show there is no need for pregnant cancer patients to have abortions or delay chemotherapy treatment beyond the first trimester, but stressed that doctors should avoid inducing early birth if at all possible.

According to Amant's findings, that advice is misplaced if chemotherapy is given after the first 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy. Only a fraction of the chemotherapy passes through the placenta, Amant said, and the drugs appear to have no health impacts on the babies' development.

Amant said that because the number of women in this study was small and the follow-up time was relatively short, his team plans to study larger numbers for longer in future research.

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