WEDNESDAY, Aug. 16, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Pregnant women with breast cancer can be safely treated with a common chemotherapy combination during both the second and third trimesters, researchers report.
The majority of babies will not experience significant short-term complications linked to maternal treatment, they added.
"Further follow-up of the children is required to determine the potential long-term effects of this exposure," wrote researchers at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston. "However, our short-term data are reassuring."
The study was published in the Aug. 7 online edition of Cancer.
As women have babies later in life, experts have hypothesized that more women will be diagnosed with breast cancer while they are pregnant. However, there's little data on how chemotherapy might affect a child in utero.
To help answer that question, the Texas team undertook a trial involving 57 pregnant breast cancer patients. All were treated with a common chemotherapy protocol (FAC or 5-fluorouracil, doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide) either after surgery or before surgery. More than one-third (35.1 percent) of the women underwent surgery in their second trimester, while 33.3 percent had surgery after delivery. Most of the women were diagnosed with advanced-stage breast cancer.
Of the original group of women, 40 are now alive and disease-free, three have had recurrences of breast cancer, 12 died of the disease, one died of other causes and one was lost to follow-up.
All women who delivered had live births; there were no stillbirths or miscarriages. One child had Down syndrome, and two had congenital abnormalities including club foot. The researchers followed the children's health for more than three years and found that most of the children were healthy although two had special education needs. Some of the children had breathing difficulties requiring ventilation at the time of birth.
For more on breast cancer, head to the American Cancer Society.