When Cancer & Pregnancy Collide
Photo: Minnie and Paul Narth
Compared with the risks of delivering Kieron prematurely at 26 weeks, chemotherapy looked like a safe bet.
"This was lymphoma -- we knew it would be responsive to chemotherapy, and we also knew this treatment is overall well-tolerated by the fetus," said Dr. Natali Aziz, an obstetrician and member of the maternal-fetal medicine team at Packard Children's Hospital.
If administered during the first trimester -- when the baby's organs are still extremely fragile -- most chemotherapy drugs can lead to spontaneous miscarriage or cause major health issues, including heart, brain, limb and palate deformities.
But during the second and third trimesters, there are certain drugs that don't seem to have an impact on a developing fetus. "Most of the toxins are metabolized by the mother, and some molecules are very large and just don't cross the placenta," said Dr. Ranjana Advani, Minnie's oncologist. "So the baby is protected."