Pregnancy is one of the happiest times in a woman’s life. Being diagnosed with breast cancer would be one of the scariest. What if they happened at the same time? According to the American Cancer Society, anywhere between 1 in every 1,000 pregnant women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year.
Even with the mother’s-to-be concern that the disease or the treatment could harm their unborn child, it is still possible for women with cancer to give birth to healthy babies. There are treatments available that will not hurt the fetus; for example chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Due to possible side effects, chemotherapy is suggested to start after the first trimester to avoid the essential development and high risk of birth defects in the first 12 to 14 weeks.
Due to the rarity of cancer during pregnancy there is limited research available on the cause and effect of chemotherapy during pregnancy. With lack of research causing uncertainty,, women would historically choose to abort the pregnancy or their doctors would choose to delay cancer treatment. Depending on the stage of pregnancy, another option women had was to prematurely induce labor thinking that an early birth was safer than subjecting the baby to chemotherapy drugs. However, recent studies by Dr. Frederic Amant, a gynecological oncologist at the University Hospitals Leuven in Belgium, have shown it is safer to take chemotherapy drugs than it is to deliver the baby before it is full term.
Among the 70 children born from the 68 pregnancies in the study, around two-thirds were delivered before 37 weeks gestation. Amant’s team found the rates and types of congenital defects were similar to the general population when it came to health and development, but there was a difference in cognitive development. Cognitive development is measured by IQ scores and behavioral tests. The IQ’s were normal for most children but those who had below normal IQ’s were mainly those born prematurely.
“The data suggest the children suffer more from prematurity than from prenatal chemotherapy,” said Dr. Amant.
With this new research women and their doctors are more knowledgeable when it comes to treatment options during pregnancy. Though chemotherapy is showing to be safe, doctors should still evaluate the best treatment options based off of a situational basis. Experienced cancer care is always important and experienced care is what FirstHealth offers. FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital was ranked fifth in the state of North Carolina for cancer treatment.
FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital’s FirstHealth Cancer Services offers a wide range of cancer treatments and support to patients and survivors in the Pinehurst, Raeford, Sanford, Lumberton, Laurinburg, Rockingham and Troy regions of North Carolina and beyond.