The medical journal The Lancet came out with a new research study confirms that pregnant women with breast cancer can give birth safely all three trimesters, without having to terminate/abort the pregnancy. Chemotherapy is considered safe because most termination does not improve a woman's chance of surviving cancer and most women don't get diagnosed with breast cancer until late in the pregnancy or after giving birth. According to the study:
Pregnant women with breast cancer can give birth safely even if they are having chemotherapy, according to new research. It is not necessary to deliver the baby early or delay treatment, said doctors writing in The Lancet medical journal.
Women are instead advised to aim to have a normal length pregnancy, because in most cases the cancer can still be treated with both chemo and surgery, said the report.
Terminating the pregnancy does not appear to improve a woman's chance of surviving the disease, it added. In the UK, 5,000 women of reproductive age are affected by breast cancer every year.
Of all cases diagnosed in women aged 30 or under, 10 to 20 per cent take place during pregnancy or in the first year after a birth.
Breast cancer in pregnant women is generally diagnosed later than usual, the report said, because symptoms are obscured by expected changes to the body such as an increase in cup-size.
It said chemotherapy could be safely given in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy and, in general, surgery was safe during any of the three trimesters.
A study in The Lancet Oncology backed up the claims, saying children exposed to chemotherapy in the womb developed just as well as those born to healthy women.
Frederic Amant a doctor from Belgium's Leuven Cancer Institute who worked on The Lancet report, said: 'The new insights we gained during our research facilitate cancer treatment and provide hope for mother and child in most cases.
'Most mothers feel stronger and are even more motivated to undergo the cancer treatment and its side effects, since she is fighting for her child as well.'
Vital action: Chemotherapy can be safely given in the second and third trimesters and, in general, surgery was safe during any of the three trimesters, said the report (file picture)
But Dr Amant admitted that breast cancer in pregnancy 'remains challenging' because in some situations advanced cancer can lead to death of mother and baby.
'Sometimes the woman's partner declares that they feel unable to raise the child in case the mother would not survive her cancer, and termination of pregnancy is opted for.
'In other situations,' he added, 'we were able to save the child though we lost the mother immediately after the delivery - for example by keeping her alive with a terminal brain tumour.
Although, the new study confirms, chemotherapy was not recommended in the first trimester because of a higher risk of harm to the baby, it was safe from the second trimester. However, according to the study:
'There is no evidence for an increased rate of second-trimester miscarriage or fetal growth restriction, organ dysfunction or long-term adverse outcome with the use of chemotherapy,' the guidelines say.
They add that most women could go to full-term and have a normal or induced delivery.
Kim Hardwick, senior cancer information nurse at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: 'Cancer during pregnancy is thankfully a rare occurrence.
This is great news for women who have a history of cancer in their family or find themselves diagnosed with cancer while pregnant. Sadly, I wonder how many women have been told to abort because of breast cancer or other cancers? This study gives more reason to believe women are better off letting nature take it's course with the pregnancy and to treat the illness rather than the pregnancy as a disease. Sadly, too many women treat their pregnancy as a problem or disease and terminate their pregnancy rather than treating the disease or the problem.
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