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Pregnancy could benefit breast cancer patients

ByMatthew Staff Contrary to previous opinion, a study in Belgium has concluded that former breast cancer patients are just as safe to carry out a pregn...

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|Mar 21|magazine8 min read

By Matthew Staff

Contrary to previous opinion, a study in Belgium has concluded that former breast cancer patients are just as safe to carry out a pregnancy as anyone else.

 In the past, a woman who found themselves pregnant having previously been treated for the sometimes fatal illness was often warned that the strains it would put on her body could possibly exacerbating the chances of a relapse.

In some cases, doctors would even advise the patient to have an abortion as a protective measure.

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However, in the study of 333 pregnant women in Brussels, they were found to have a very similar rate of the illness recurring as the 874 who did not become pregnant.

These results, compiled by Dr Hatem Azim, a medical oncologist at the Jules Bordet Institute in Brussels, comprehensively show that pregnancy has no explicit link with the recurrence of the disease, therefore deeming it safe to conceive.

The findings have been presented at the European Breast Cancer Conference in Austria.

“Out of all the women, 57 per cent had ER+ disease, but the study showed there was no difference in the length of time women with either ER+ or ER negative (ER-) 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.”

However, Dr Azim was quick to distance himself from a clear statement suggesting former sufferers should try to conceive as a protective measure.

“A clear trend over time was not demonstrated; hence this finding should be interpreted with caution as it could be confounded by potential selection bias, and hence pregnancy within two years of diagnosis should be regarded as safe, and not as protective,” he stated.

Up until now, the misconception was that the massive increase in certain hormones during pregnancy would antagonise the common oestrogen receptor positive form of cancer, and induce a recurrence.

In light of the new findings though, women will now be able to continue trying to conceive if they wish, without the worry of increasing their chances of their cancer returning; a positive result that Professor David Cameron, from the University of Edinburgh has been quick to emphasise.

“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,” he declared.

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