Pregnant cancer patients can be treated without harming fetus


by KING 5 Healthlink

Posted on August 12, 2010 at 3:36 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

 When a mother-to-be gets cancer, it can make turn a joyful occasion into one filled with worry.  What many people don't realize is that pregnant women can receive the same treatment as other cancer patients without endangering their babies.

"Ecstatic.  I was ecstatic.  I have twins on both sides of my family.  I knew I would always have twins.  I was absolutely out of my mind with happiness," said Jeanie Taddeo, breast cancer survivor.

Jeanie Taddeo and her husband, Phil, tried for twelve years to have a baby, but their joy quickly turned to fear when this 8th grade Spanish teacher felt a lump in her right breast.

"It turned out it was Stage 2 breast cancer.  It was the most devastating news I could ever have imagined at the happiest time of my life," said Jeanie.

Jeanie couldn't believe it.  She was only 36 years old with no family history of breast cancer.

"I thought, 'What is going to happen to my girls?'  It wasn't me.  It was my girls," she said.

Dr. Susan Domchek with the Hospital University of Pennsylvania says it is possible to safely give chemo in the second and third trimester.

"We do have to time the birth of the babies and when we give the chemotherapy and we don't want to give chemotherapy too close to the birth so it does make things more challenging," said Dr. Domchek.

Dr. Domchek says the placenta protects the baby.

"That's the idea, that the baby is in sort of a safe haven and really doesn't have a significant effect from the chemotherapy," said Dr. Domchek.

Jeanie's husband Phil admits it was scary.

"You see what the chemo drugs do to the person getting the chemo and to sort of rationalize that nothing is going to happen to these two little girls takes a big leap of faith," said Phil.

Two months before her due date Jeanie gave birth. The babies weighed just 2 and 3 pounds, but otherwise were healthy. Now almost two years old, little Giavanna and Gillian are healthy, happy, and a handful.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in pregnant women, affecting approximately one in 3,000 pregnancies.