herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Cancer drugs 'are safe for mums-to-be'

PREGNANT women with breast cancer may be able to undergo surgery or chemotherapy and still deliver babies at full-term, according to a new report.

Treating cancer during pregnancy cuts the need to deliver the baby early -- a major concern in managing women with the disease, experts said.

Doctors should aim for women to have a normal length pregnancy wherever possible because, in most cases, breast cancer can be treated with surgery or chemotherapy or both, said the report in The Lancet medical journal.

Furthermore, terminating the pregnancy does not appear to improve the chance a woman will survive the disease.

In the UK, 15pc of breast cancer cases are diagnosed before the age of 45, affecting almost 5,000 women of reproductive age every year.

Between 1991 and 1997 there were 1.3 to 2.4 cases of breast cancer in women per 10,000 live births. When breast cancer is diagnosed in women aged 30 or under, 10pc to 20pc of cases are in pregnancy or the first year after giving birth.

Yesterday's report said breast cancer in pregnancy was usually diagnosed later than in other women because normal pregnancy changes to the breast can obscure the symptoms.

A further study in The Lancet Oncology said children exposed to chemotherapy in the womb developed just as well as children born to healthy women.

Dr Frederic Amant, from the Leuven Cancer Institute in Belgium, said breast cancer in pregnancy "remains challenging" because advanced cancer can lead to death of mother and baby.

"In other situations 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," he said.

"Sometimes the woman's partner declares that they feel unable to raise the child in case the mother would not survive and termination is opted for."

hnews@herald.ie

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