Children Exposed to Chemotherapy Develop Normally

Cancer patients children do not have development delay

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Pregnant women undergoing cancer therapy worry that the treatment will hurt their baby's health. But rest assured, chemotherapy does not put a growing baby at risk of health problems, reports a new study.

A Belgian study shows that babies who are exposed to chemotherapy in the womb develop just as well as children of women who didn’t receive chemotherapy.

"Chemotherapy appears to be safe for pregnant moms and their babies."

In the study, Dr. Frederic Amant, head of the scientific section of gynecologic oncology at Katholieke Universiteit in Leuven, Belgium, and researchers tracked 68 pregnant women who received chemotherapy. On average, three to four cycles of chemotherapy were administered (236 cycles total) on each woman.

The children, ranging in age from 1.5 to 18 years old, were given neurological exams, IQ tests, electrocardiography and echocardiography, and the mothers answered a questionnaire on general health and development. Kids who were five years old or older received more tests, including audiometry, a verbal learning test, memory test and attention test, while a parent gave information about the child’s behavior.

The women who underwent chemotherapy were diagnosed, on average, at 18 weeks of pregnancy. The babies were born at a median of 36 weeks into the pregnancy. More than two-thirds of the women gave birth prematurely at less than 37 weeks.

The study authors report that the behavior, general health, hearing and growth of a chemotherapy-exposed child are equal to that of a child in the “general population.” However, cognitive development scores were lower for children who were born prematurely, compared to those who were born full-term (at 37 weeks or more).

Since chemotherapy will not harm the fetus, treatment for the mother should not be postponed until after the child’s birth, the authors concluded in a press release. It’s possible to administer chemotherapy beginning at 14 weeks of pregnancy, they add.

The authors also found a severe neuro-developmental delay in both children of one twin pregnancy, though they believe this was not linked to chemotherapy treatment.

Still, further research done over a longer period of time is needed to ensure that chemotherapy doesn’t hurt a baby’s health, according to the authors.

This observational study was published online in the journal The Lancet Oncology.

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Last Updated:
February 14, 2012