New study says pregnancy is safe, even beneficial, for women recovering from breast cancer
VIENNA, Austria, March 22, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - New research presented at the eighth European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC-8) in Vienna yesterday contradicts advice previously given to breast cancer patients that pregnancy could increase the risk of the cancer returning.
“Frequently when women with history of breast cancer become pregnant, some physicians advise them to have an abortion for fear that completing the pregnancy could have a detrimental effect on the outcome of their disease. We found that this was not true and the outcome was similar, irrespective of whether the pregnancy was completed or not,” said Dr. Hatem Azim, a medical oncologist at Jules Bordet Institute in Brussels.
Dr Azim reported that not only is it safe to become pregnant following a breast cancer diagnosis, but that patients who become pregnant appear to survive longer than those who don’t.
“Becoming pregnant at any time following a diagnosis of breast cancer does not increase the risk of recurrence, even if the pregnancy occurs during the first two years after the diagnosis. Furthermore, patients who become pregnant appear to survive longer than those who do not,” Dr Azim stated.
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The research followed the health outcomes, for a period of five years, of 333 women ages 21 to 48 who became pregnant after a breast cancer diagnosis, and a control group of 874 women with similar breast cancer diagnoses who did not become pregnant. During this period, 30% of the total 1,207 women had a recurrence of their disease.
The study focused on women who were diagnosed with estrogen-receptor positive (ER+) tumors, which have protein molecules that need estrogen to grow.
“Out of all the women, 57% had ER+ disease, but the study showed there was no difference in the length of time women with either ER+ or ER negative disease survived without their disease recurring compared with those who did not become pregnant,“ Dr Azim said. “In addition, we found that patients who became pregnant within two years of breast cancer diagnosis appeared to have a better disease-free survival compared to those who did not become pregnant.”
Dr. Azim claimed that his study “shows convincingly that pregnancy any time following breast cancer diagnosis is safe, irrespective of ER status. This study provides strong evidence to help proper counselling of women seeking to become pregnant following completion of breast cancer therapy.”
“Hence, abortion should not be promoted for therapeutic reasons in these patients,” Dr Azim concluded.
Professor David Cameron of the University of Edinburgh, and chairman of the EBCC-8 conference, commented to attendees, “This is an important study, as it can give women much more confidence that a wanted pregnancy after treatment for breast cancer does not necessarily mean a poorer chance of being able to live to bring up children.
“However, it is important to acknowledge that there are limitations in this kind of case control study, and so whilst an important piece of research, it cannot yet be taken as definitive proof that there is no adverse effect of a subsequent pregnancy. What it does suggest is that at worst any negative impact is small, and that it is likely that there is no detrimental effect of a subsequent pregnancy.”
The report on Dr Azim’s research is available on the European Cancer Organization website.