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Pregnancy and radiotherapy: Management options for minimising risk, case series and comprehensive literature review


  • SA Luis MBBS; DRH Christie FRANZCR;
    A Kaminski FRANZCR; L Kenny FRANZCR;
    MH Peres FRANZCR.

  • Conflicts of interest: None

Dr Sushil Allen Luis, Auckland City Hospital, Park Road, Grafton, Auckland, New Zealand.


This article reviews the efficacy and safety of radiotherapy in patients with cancer who are pregnant. Our review provided extended follow-up results in nine cases, presents a technical discussion on measures taken to minimise foetal radiation exposure and provides a comprehensive summary of the literature. Nine patients who received radiotherapy while pregnant are described. The clinical presentation and outcomes of these and 100 additional cases identified on a systematic literature review are presented. Comparisons of scattered radiation doses from three linear accelerators are presented. The average maternal follow-up in our series was 8.9 years with one patient having a recurrence of their astrocytoma. In terms of foetal outcome, there were one death in utero, one elective termination of pregnancy and one on which no data were available. Six children, on whom long-term follow-up (average 10.3 years) was obtainable, were in good health. Overall, there had been 109 cases of radiotherapy in pregnancy that met our search criteria with 13 adverse outcomes and a median follow-up of 37 months. Comparisons of three linear accelerators demonstrated significant differences in the amount of scattered radiation to the abdominal surface. In summary radiotherapy during pregnancy can be associated with a significant number of adverse outcomes. While it may be difficult for a patient not to attribute these effects to radiotherapy, it is also difficult to define the mechanisms by which radiotherapy would have caused them, if that were the case.