In a study completed by Jennifer Litton and associates, treatment for breast cancer during pregnancy was associated with improved cancer survival rates despite previous information to the opposite. The findings were discussed at the 2010 Breast Cancer Symposium.

Older studies have reported worse outcomes for women treated for breast cancer during pregnancy, so researchers were surprised at the significant differences between these previous studies and the current study. The study compared 75 pregnant women treated for breast cancer to 150 non-pregnant women receiving the same treatments. All participants were treated between 1989 and 2008 at the MD Anderson's Department of Breast Medical Oncology.

Standard chemotherapy protocol was followed by all patients. At five years post-treatment, women who were pregnant during chemotherapy measured about 74% compared to non-pregnant breast cancer patients at about 56%. Overall survival rates measured 77.42% and 71.86% respectively.

Researchers are unsure why pregnant women responded to chemotherapy better than non-pregnant breast cancer patients. With further research, doctors hope to develop a treatment protocol that improves the survival rate based on the effect of chemotherapy on the pregnant female. Further study is needed to find the specific difference between pregnant and non-pregnant cancer patients.

Theriault, senior author of the study, stated, “…when we are counseling breast cancer patients who are pregnant, we can say that they should have every expectation that they will do as well as our non-pregnant patients, and that they should start their treatment in the second or third trimester without delay."

Source: Jennifer Litton MD, Richard Theriault DO, Gabriel Hortobagyi MD, Karin Hahn MD, George Perkins MD, Lavinia Middleton MD, Ana Gonzalez-Angulom, Shana Palla, Carla Warneke. University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. 01 October 2010.