One of the biggest dilemmas that a mother can face is to be pregnant and find out that she has cancer. Most women believe that if they have cancer while they are pregnant they either have to choose delaying their cancer treatments and possibly endangering their lives, or shortening their lives expectancy because they will be allowing the cancer to develop further while they complete the pregnancy. Or they can terminate their pregnancy, or proceed with cancer treatments and possibly cause complications for the child.

Recent research suggests that many women in this position can safely have the cancer treatment they need and still carry their baby to term.

The Study on Pregnancy

The study was conducted in Europe. It concentrated on one hundred and twenty nine children who were born to mothers who had been diagnosed with cancer while they were pregnant with them. There was also a control group of one hundred and twenty nine children who were not born of mothers who had cancer during pregnancy.

The researchers examined the physical and mental health of all of the children when they were eighteen months of age and again when they turned three years of age.

Amongst the children:

  • Sixty nine percent of their mothers had chemo while they were pregnant with them
  • Three percent of the children were exposed to radiation therapy before they were born
  • A little more than five percent of the children’s mothers had both chemo and radiation treatments while they were pregnant
  • Ten percent of the children had mothers who had surgery while they were pregnant
  • About eleven percent of the mothers who were diagnosed with cancer while pregnant chose to delay treatment until after they had given birth
  • About one percent of the children’s mothers were treated with either interferon or trastuzumab

The results of the study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The Results of the Study

The study results were surprising. The gynecological oncologist, Frederic Armant said that there were no significant differences between the children whose mothers had had chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and the children whose mothers who had had no cancer when pregnant. The children all developed at about the same rate, both mentally and physically.

Most of the infants born to mothers who have received cancer treatment were born prematurely. The majority of those births was planned by the doctors and received medicine to help develop their lungs prior to delivery.

Most of the babies were delivered by c-section due to vaginal inflammation that is caused by the cancer treatment drugs.

Some instances of premature delivery due to premature rupture of membranes did occur. These premature births may have been a direct result of the cancer medications the mother was taking.

The most common cancers in pregnant women are leukemia and breast cancer.

The researchers believe that delaying treatment is more harmful to the children of these mothers because the survival chances for the mother are lessened when they wait.