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Women cancer survivors more likely to have pre-term delivery

IANS | New York |

Women diagnosed and treated for cancer during their childbearing years are more at risk of having a premature delivery, babies with low birth weights or cesarean section delivery, a study has found.

"We found that women were more likely to deliver pre-term if they've been treated for cancer overall, with greater risks for women who had chemotherapy," said Hazel B. Nichols, Assistant Professor in the University of North Carolina, US. 

Children who do not spend as long in-utero environment are likely to have a higher incidence of breathing problems or infections. 

Further, the study found that risk of pre-term birth for breast cancer survivors was nearly two times, a 60 per cent higher risk of pre-term birth in women with Hodgkin lymphoma, an increased risk of approximately two times in women with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and a risk that was nearly three times higher for women with gynaecologic cancers.

In addition, the risk of pre-term birth and low birth weight was highest for women diagnosed with cancer while pregnant and those who had chemotherapy. 

For young women facing a new cancer diagnosis, fertility preservation can be an important consideration in treatment planning, the researchers said, in the paper published in the journal JAMA Oncology. 

"This is something for women and their providers to be aware of when a woman is reviewing her prenatal care, or talking about her medical history with her provider," Nichols said.

"We know that cancer treatment can have an impact on fertility and it's only after puberty that some of the options exist to either freeze eggs or freeze embryos, or take other steps to protect fertility. So this is a time period when it's important to counsel women on what their reproductive risks are for cancer therapy, or what they can expect in the future," she added.