Analysis of preventability of malignancy-related maternal death from the nationwide registration system of maternal deaths in Japan

on behalf of the Maternal Death Exploratory Committee in Japan and Japan Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

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Objective: We reviewed malignancy related maternal deaths in Japan to ascertain if there were avoidable factors. Methods: Malignancy-related maternal death in Japan reported to the Maternal Death Exploratory Committee, from 2010 to 2016 inclusive. Results: There were 12 cases of maternal death caused by malignancy. There were four gastric cancers (two poorly differentiated adenocarcinoma, one signet ring cell carcinoma with adenocarcinoma, one histology not available), 3 leukemia (two acute myeloid leukemia, one aggressive NK cell leukemia), two ureteral cancers (histology not available), one malignant lymphoma (diffuse large B-cell lymphoma with translocation), one brain tumor (gliomatosis cerebri), and one cervical cancer (glassy cell carcinoma). Two gastric cancer patients had chronic gastric pain before conception. In two cases the physicians commented that they had avoided computed tomography and the brain biopsy needed for diagnosis because the patient was pregnant. At diagnosis, the clinical stages were II–IV in 9, and the performance status was 3–5 in 8. Indication for delivery was exacerbated maternal condition in 5, for treatment in 3, spontaneous labor in 3, and one patient declined elective delivery. Median [interquartile rage] (range) gestational weeks of delivery was 29 [24–30] (19–40). One cervical cancer patient had a radical hysterectomy and chemotherapy for 10 months. However, three leukemia and one gastric cancer patients had chemotherapy within 10 d because they deteriorated rapidly. Another seven cases did not have any treatment because of poor general condition or because they remained undiagnosed. In all cases, the Committee considered that there was no evidence of substandard care. Conclusion: In these cases, both the clinical stages and biological degree of malignancy were high. In two-thirds of cases, early termination of the pregnancy was indicated because of deteriorating maternal condition. Chemotherapy was not effective because of short available time for therapy and the advanced stage of the cancers when diagnosed. Encouraging women to have a thorough medical assessment before conception, and early diagnosis and treatment before pregnancy, appears to be the only practical way to reduce deaths from malignancy while a woman is pregnant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)432-438
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology


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