Chemotherapy during pregnancy does not seem to cause developmental problems in children

“However, it is important to prevent preterm birth if possible and continue pregnancy until at least 37 weeks, as the data suggest the children suffer more from prematurity than from prenatal chemotherapy. Pregnant women who are receiving chemotherapy often have delivery induced from the moment the foetus is viable although not mature. Our results suggest this should be avoided.”

He says that that it is not clear whether chemotherapy itself could be a possible cause for premature delivery, but that in many cases preterm delivery is induced and is itself the cause of the cognitive developmental problems seen in this group of children.

Chemo During Pregnancy OK
Pregnant women who have breast cancer shouldn’t delay chemotherapy or schedule an early delivery to avoid exposing the baby to the drugs, doctors say.

A review of the records of 313 pregnant women with breast cancer showed that nearly twice as many women who didn’t get chemotherapy had premature deliveries: 33% vs. 17% of those who took the drugs.

Premature babies face a higher risk of illness and death, says study head Sibylle Loibl, MD, of the German Breast Group.

About 2% of all breast cancers are diagnosed during pregnancy, she tells WebMD. The number may rise, however, as more women delay pregnancy until later in life, Loibl says.

Some breast cancer patients who find themselves pregnant choose to delay treatment out of fear the drugs will harm the developing fetus, according to Loibl. In such cases, doctors may induce early delivery to allow for an earlier treatment start, she says.

“That’s not the right thing to do. We have shown we can give women the best treatment possible during pregnancy without putting the baby in danger,” Loibl says.

The findings were presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

By Charlene Laino
WebMD Health News

Prof Amant will conclude: “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. For this reason, we are continuing this international collaboration to follow-up more children for longer periods of time.”


Abstract no: 12 LBA, Presidential session IV, 09.00 hrs (CEST), Tuesday 27 September, Hall A1.

[1] The 2011 European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress is the 16th congress of the European CanCer Organisation (ECCO), the 36th congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) and the 30th congress of European Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ESTRO).

[2] This study was funded by the Research Foundation Flanders Project, Stichting tegen kanker Project SCIE2006-17, Research Fund-K.U.Leuven, Flemish Government, Agency for Innovation by Science and Technology Project, Clinical Research Fund-UZ Gasthuisberg and Belgian Cancer Plan, Ministry of Health.


Contact: Emma Mason
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ECCO-the European CanCer Organisation

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