This growing evidence may play a critical role in giving doctors confidence to treat pregnant cancer patients, said Dr. Elyce Cardonick, a maternal fetal medicine physician at Cooper University Hospital in New Jersey.
"The first time someone experiences a patient who is pregnant they may be very fearful to treat them," said Cardonick, who maintains a registry of pregnant cancer patients that tracks their progress during and after their pregnancy. "When that oncologist or a gynecologist has a second patient, you get a little more comfortable. Each physician might only see one or two patients like this in their careers; that's why it's important to maintain a registry."
The study by the German Breast Group confirmed other research indicating that chemotherapy treatments carry fewer risks to an unborn child than was originally assumed. But more research needs to be done on the potential physical and mental effects of chemotherapy drugs on a child later in its life.
"The role of chemotherapy is to save the patient to be a mom," Cardonick said. "It's a risk-to-benefit ratio. Nothing is 100 percent safe."