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Study: chemotherapy may be safe for pregnant mothers

For many years, pregnant women who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another form of cancer have faced an impossible choice: undergo chemotherapy and risk severely injuring the baby, deliver the baby early and risk the complications of premature birth, or terminate the pregnancy.

Now, however, new studies are showing that chemotherapy does not have the negative effect on unborn fetuses that doctors previously believed. This development may mean that pregnant women with mesothelioma and lung cancer can receive more effective treatment for their diseases.

According to a recent study out of Belgium, researchers compared the IQ and circulatory system of fetuses that were exposed to chemotherapy in the womb and fetuses who were not exposed to the powerful drugs. In sum, they found that both groups developed at the same rate. The placenta was shown to protect the fetus from the harmful chemotherapy toxins. Chemotherapy is usually started after the first trimester of pregnancy.

It is actually more harmful to fetuses, researchers found, to deliver a baby early in order to begin an aggressive chemotherapy regimen on the mother. A premature delivery poses one of the largest health risks for babies, regardless of whether their mother has cancer or not.

Researchers also debunked the myth that terminating a pregnancy early is one of the only effective ways to begin a successful course of treatment for the mother. They reportedly found that ending the pregnancy does not significantly improve the mother's cancer prognosis.

Additional research is needed on this subject, but it is a promising development for pregnant women in Madison County and throughout the country who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another form of cancer.

Source: Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, "Chemotherapy Possible During Pregnancy," Kristen Griffin, Feb. 14, 2012

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