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Chemo May Not Harm Unborn Baby

Study: Children Exposed to Chemotherapy in Second and Third Trimesters Develop Normally
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Chemo Findings ‘Reassuring’

Although Amant and colleagues say larger studies with longer follow-up are needed to confirm their findings, they conclude that exposure to chemotherapy during the second and third trimester is generally safe with few long-term harms for babies.

“The clinical message is threefold,” Amant says. “First, fear of chemotherapy is generally no reason to terminate a pregnancy. Second, fear of chemotherapy is generally no reason to delay treatment when pregnant. And third, delivery should not be rushed to avoid exposing the fetus to chemotherapy.”

Women’s cancer specialist Diana Contreras, MD, says the study confirms what most oncologists now believe.

Contreras directs the division of gynecology oncology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York.

“These findings are not earth-shattering, but they are very reassuring,” she says. “And it is very helpful to be able to show patients a study that confirms what we are telling them.”

American Cancer Society Chief Medical Officer Otis Brawley, MD, agrees.

“This is not a big surprise,” he says. “We have been giving chemotherapy to women who are pregnant for a long time.”

He adds that some chemotherapies are avoided -- such as the drug methotrexate -- because they are known to increase the risk of birth defects.

“But many of the most commonly used cancer drugs do not cross the placental barrier and we have had good outcomes with these drugs,” Brawley says.

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