One out of every 1,000 pregnant women have cancer. It’s a situation that oncologists and OB/GYNs don’t often encounter, and one that can leave many women feeling very scared and alone, says Susan Musialowski, the patient coordinator for Hope for Two: The Pregnant With Cancer Network.
By: Elyce Cardonick, MD (published in Hopeline newsletter Fall 2013)
Many women ask about the safety of breast feeding after a pregnancy complicated by cancer. Let me start by saying that if you do require any chemotherapy postpartum, unfortunately breast feeding is not advised once you start treatment. There are case reports of children having neutropenia (low white counts) after receiving breast milk while a mother was receiving Cytoxan. There is not much information on the quantity of other types of chemotherapy in breast milk, but it is not advised.
Fetal development is a complex process. At different stages of development, different aspects can be influenced by external factors (e.g., teratogenic drugs, alcohol, smoking, maternal stress, and altered nutrition). Among women in whom cancer is diagnosed during pregnancy, factors such as maternal illness, diagnostic tests, cancer treatment, and increased levels of maternal stress can negatively influence fetal development.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration published a final rule today that sets standards for how information about using medicines during pregnancy and breastfeeding is presented in the labeling of prescription drugs and biological products. The new content and formatting requirements will provide a more consistent way to include relevant information about the risks and benefits of prescription drugs and biological products used during pregnancy and breastfeeding.