Adolescent Girls With Blood Cancer Should be Screened for Pregnancy Prior to Cancer Chemotherapy

Health In Focus   - G J E 4
  • Adolescent girls sometimes undergo tests or are treated with drugs that are often harmful in pregnancy
  • It is necessary to test these girls for pregnancy before using these tests or treatments
  • Researchers found that pregnancy screening of adolescent girls undergoing chemotherapy for a particular blood cancer is not adequate.
Recent research published in the CANCER suggests that adolescent girls with a blood cancer called acute lymphoblastic leukemia are not being adequately screened for pregnancy before receiving chemotherapy.
Adolescent Girls With Blood Cancer Should be Screened for Pregnancy Prior to Cancer Chemotherapy

Adolescent pregnancy continues to be a major concern the world over. An early unplanned pregnancy could have several physical, emotional and social implications on the teenage mother and the baby. It could result in early dropping out of school or college, and worsen the financial situation of the family. It could also affect the health of the mother and the baby. Increased awareness of birth control measures and including the family in the sex education of the teenager could help to reduce adolescent pregnancies.

‘Teenage girls should be screened for pregnancy as a routine before any tests or treatment that could harm the unborn child.’
Pregnant teenagers face another problem - doctors may prescribe medications or tests without expecting them to be pregnant and therefore enquiring about the same. Such medications and tests could be harmful to the unborn baby.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia conducted a study to evaluate if adolescent female cancer patients with a type of blood cancer called acute leukemia were screened for pregnancy before they received chemotherapy. Chemotherapy includes medications that are used to treat cancers. Cancer treatment with either chemotherapy or radiation therapy can be harmful to the fetus.

The girls in the study were in the age group of 10 to 18 years. This group of girls were compared to other girls who were admitted to the emergency room and underwent computed tomography (CT scan) of the abdomen and pelvis. Girls undergoing radiological tests were usually screened for pregnancy according to established protocols.

The researchers found that:
  • Screening for pregnancy in adolescent girls who underwent treatment for a type of leukemia called acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) was much lower as compared to the girls who underwent abdominal or pelvic CT scan
  • There was no significant difference between the percentage of girls screened for pregnancy between those suffering from another type of leukemia called acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and those admitted to the emergency room for a CT scan.
  • The patterns of screening for pregnancy varied widely among hospitals.
Adolescent Pregnancy - Statistics
  • Every year, about 16 million girls aged 15 to 19 years and some 1 million girls under 15 years give birth in low and middle income countries
  • Some 3 million girls aged 15 to 19 years of age undergo unsafe abortions
  • Babies born to adolescent mothers face a higher risk of dying than those born to women aged 20 to 24 years of age
The researchers therefore advocate the need for standardized pregnancy screening practices for adolescent girls being treated for cancer to prevent inadvertent damage to the developing fetus.

  1. CANCER Journal
  2. About Teen Pregnancy - (
Source: Medindia

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