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Cancer treatment during pregnancy not harmful to baby, new study indicates
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In the past, pregnant women battling cancer had to decide whether to delay treatment or terminate pregnancies, but new findings suggest children exposed to cancer treatment had no health issues related to the treatment, according to Reuters. - photo by Payton Davis
A new study suggests pregnant women diagnosed with cancer a group having to make difficult decisions in regards to delivering children don't need to put off treatment or end their pregnancies.

According to The New York Times, women in that circumstance used to face one of medicine's largest dilemmas.

"It is among the most delicate and difficult dilemmas in medicine: Should a pregnant woman who has received a cancer diagnosis begin treatment before her child is born?" the NYT piece stated. "Some hesitant doctors counsel women to deliver preterm or even terminate the pregnancy first."

However, the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, indicated otherwise, according to Reuters.

Pregnant women battling cancer "do not need a termination and can start treatment immediately without worrying unduly about the effects of drugs or radiation on their unborn babies," Reuters reported.

Researchers studied a group of 129 children whose mothers had cancer while pregnant. A Time article indicated 96 kids were exposed to chemotherapy, 11 to radiotherapy, 13 to surgery, two to drug treatments and 14 were born to mothers who didn't go through treatment during pregnancy.

According to Time, the mothers received treatment over the course of their pregnancies' final two months, and researchers evaluated the children's health on more than one occasion after birth.

What did the scientists find?

Preterm birth was more common among children whose mothers had cancer, but otherwise, the kids studied didn't differ from their peers born under normal circumstances, according to U.S. News & World Report.

"Compared to the control group of children, we found no significant differences in mental development among children exposed to chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery alone or no treatment," said Frdric Amant, study lead author and professor at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium.

Daily Mail reported the most common cancers mothers studied had included leukaemia and lymphoma and that researchers' findings came with one caveat: The study doesn't indicate all types of chemotherapy prove safe.

Martin Ledwick, Cancer Research UK head information nurse, told Daily Mail the study is promising but doesn't account for all factors pregnant women with cancer must consider.

For starters, the mothers used numerous treatments, Ledwick explained.

"Although the results of the study seem encouraging, its important to acknowledge that a range of chemotherapy drugs and other treatments were used on the mothers, so it may be hard to draw firm conclusions," he told Daily Mail.

According to the New York Times, leaders in the medical field have displayed "cautious optimism" at the study's findings because the pool of participants was small and not all chemo drugs were studied.

But the new findings prove termination and delaying treatment aren't necessary steps, Amant said, according to Reuters.

"Our results show that fear of cancer treatment is no reason to terminate a pregnancy, that maternal treatment should not be delayed and that chemotherapy can be given," Amant said.

Cancer in pregnancy is rare, taking place in one of every 1,000 pregnancies, according to the New York Times.