The babies of breast cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy while pregnant do not appear to be at higher risk of complications, according to an Article published Online First in The Lancet Oncology.
The study examined a group of more than 400 women from across Europe who were diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer while pregnant. 197 (48%) of the women underwent chemotherapy during pregnancy, and the authors assessed whether their newborn babies suffered any ill effects that could be attributable to the cancer drugs.
While infants whose mothers had undergone chemotherapy while pregnant had, on average, a lower birth weight than those whose mothers had not had chemotherapy, there were few other noticeable differences between the groups. Babies exposed to chemotherapy in utero appeared to have no higher risk of birth defects, no lower Apgar scores, no more frequent blood disorders or alopecia than those whose mothers did not receive chemotherapy while pregnant.
According to Professor Sibylle Loibl, of the German Breast Group which led the study, “If our findings are confirmed by other studies, breast cancer during pregnancy could be treated as it is in non-pregnant women without putting foetal and maternal outcomes at substantially increased risk.”
The number of chemotherapy cycles received during pregnancy did not appear to affect the babies’ birth weight, leading the authors to suggest that the lower birth weight is not clinically meaningful.
“In the general population, about 10–15% of infants are born preterm, but in our study, 50% of women with breast cancer delivered preterm, with 23% delivering before the 35th week of gestation. More complications were reported in the group of infants exposed to chemotherapy than in the group not exposed to chemotherapy. However, most complications were reported in babies who were delivered prematurely, irrespective of exposure to chemotherapy.”