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Cancer treatment is possible during pregnancy

Psychologist Mathilde van Gerwen conducted doctoral research within the International Network on Cancer In Pregnancy (INCIP). She studied the short and long term development of children who were exposed to cancer and cancer treatment with chemotherapy before birth in utero. A large proportion of the children were included at the Cancer in Pregnancy Outpatient Clinic (CIP) of the Princess Máxima Center. The reassuring results of this study help parents and practitioners to make an informed decision about whether or not to start treatment for a mother's cancer during pregnancy.

When chemotherapy is administered from second trimester onwards of pregnancy, it appears to have little impact on the child. Until the age of six, these children grow and develop the same as children born after a normal pregnancy. Small differences in the areas of verbal intelligence, emotion regulation, blood pressure and hearing were found and emphasize the importance of follow-up care and screening in these children. The results help inform parents and make choices when faced with a cancer diagnosis during pregnancy.

Outpatient Clinic
Mathilde van Gerwen will receive her doctorate with this research on September 24, 2021 at the University of Amsterdam. The conclusions from my thesis contribute to the care provided by the Cancer In Pregnancy Outpatient Clinic (CIP),' says the doctoral candidate. At this outpatient clinic, led by pediatric oncologists Prof. Dr. Marry van den Heuvel-Eibrink and Dr. Martine van Grotel, more than 100 children a year are monitored for medical and (neuro)psychological consequences after exposure to cancer treatment in the womb. Hearing screening is also done in children who have had chemotherapy with platinum.

Deciding together
'At the outpatient clinic, we will be even more committed to psychosocial support for children and their families. That includes families whose mothers have died at this stage. Our CIP consultation is linked to the INCIP and the Cancer and Pregnancy Advisory Group. Through close collaboration, the research results have a direct impact on families and children facing cancer during pregnancy' says Mathilde van Gerwen. The results of the study are important for parents and practitioners, she says. 'It helps to make an informed decision about whether or not to start cancer treatment during pregnancy.' She will remain involved in the follow-up research as a postdoctoral researcher.