(Mirror Daily, United States) – Surprisingly, infants born to mothers who underwent cancer treatment during pregnancy are as healthy as the children from the general population.

The universal thinking was that termination of pregnancy was required before the mother could start treatment, but a team of cancer specialists released a study on Monday that released mothers from the fear of radiating their unborn babies.

They analyzed the heart function and the mental processes of 129 children aged 1 to 3 who were exposed prenatally to cancer treatment, and they found that their development was in no way impaired and the cancer drugs hadn’t affected their natural growth.

Study author Frederic Amant, a gynaecological oncologist and a professor at University Hospitals Leuven in Belgium, said the results showed rather clearly that pregnancies should not be terminated on grounds of cancer treatment. Maternal treatment should be administered immediately, as in the case of any other cancer patient, including chemotherapy.

Amant’s research was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at the European Cancer Congress in Vienna. The children who took part in his study were from Italy, Belgium, the Czech Republic, and The Netherlands, and a control group of babies born to mothers not affected by cancer was also established.

Out of the 129 babies, 89 were prenatally exposed to chemotherapy, 7 to both chemo- and radiotherapy, 4 only to radiotherapy, 13 to surgery, 1 to the each to the cancer drug Herceptin, and 1 to interferon beta.

There were also 14 mothers with cancer who weren’t administered cancer treatment during their pregnancy. Breast and blood cancers – lymphoma and leukemia – were the most common among the mothers. Analysis of the babies’ development showed “no significant differences in mental development among children exposed to chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery or no treatment.”

In spite of the many types of chemotherapy included in this study, Amant’s team warns they cannot guarantee that any type of chemotherapy is safe during pregnancy. Regardless of the kind – or lack – of the exposure to prenatal cancer treatments, 61 percent of the babies birthed by mothers with cancer were born prematurely.

Commenting on the research, Peter Naredi, an oncologist with no involvement in the study, said women should feel reassured by this news, as the best course of action is beneficial for both themselves and their babies. Doctors have the green light to start cancer treatment immediately, while monitoring the baby’s activity to the term.
Image Source: Chicago Parent