A new study of 129 children suggests that babies whose mothers have cancer during pregnancy, and seek treatment, are not at put at a greater risk for development problems.
In the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers looked at a group of children whose mothers had cancer during pregnancy. Ninety-six of the children were exposed to chemotherapy, 11 were exposed to radiotherapy, 13 were exposed to surgery, two were exposed to drug treatments and 14 had mothers who did not undergo treatment while pregnant.
The mothers underwent treatment in the last two trimesters of pregnancy and the researchers followed up on the babies over a year after birth. Babies who were exposed to moms with cancer with or without treatment did not have impaired cardiac, cognitive or general development in early childhood, the study authors conclude.
There was a higher prevalence of preterm births, but the researchers note the children had normal development at 22 months.
“Children who had prenatal exposure to cancer and the associated stress, imaging studies, and treatments had normal development during testing at 18 months, 36 months, or both,” the study authors write. “In particular, chemotherapy had no clear adverse effects on postnatal growth or on cognitive or cardiac function.”
Not all chemotherapy drugs were used in the study, which is one of the report’s limitations. The study also did not look at long-term risks.
Still, the researchers say their data suggests being diagnosed with cancer does not necessarily mean a woman needs to terminate her pregnancy. “Although caution is always indicated, treatment of the maternal cancer in the second trimester or later may not be harmful to the fetus,” the authors write.