Managing and Treating Breast Cancer During Pregnancy

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes mothers-to-be have breast cancer. Getting pregnant doesn’t cause the cancer, although the changes in hormones from the pregnancy can make the disease grow faster.

Your breasts thicken while you’re expecting, and that can make it hard to spot small masses or lumps. Because of this, breast cancer tumors are often larger and more advanced by the time they’re noticed.

This makes it extra important to have breast exams throughout pregnancy. Any lumps or suspicious symptoms need to be checked by a doctor.

Getting a diagnosis of breast cancer while you’re pregnant isn’t a common occurrence. It’s estimated to happen in about 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 10,000 pregnancies.

Pregnancy-associated breast cancer includes breast cancer diagnosed any time during the pregnancy or in the first year postpartum.

It’s possible that breast cancer in pregnancy has increased because more women are having children later in life. The risk of developing breast cancer rises with a woman’s age.

Being pregnant doesn’t cause breast cancer, but if you already have some breast cancer cells, the hormonal changes of pregnancy may cause them to grow.

Continue reading to learn more about breast cancer during pregnancy, treatment options, and what you can expect for yourself and your baby.

Treatment that considers the baby’s health

Diagnosing and treating breast cancer are complicated by pregnancy. The goal is to cure the cancer, if possible, or to keep it from spreading while also protecting the health of your baby. Your cancer care team and your obstetrician will need to coordinate to provide the best care for you and your baby.

There are no known cases of breast cancer spreading to a fetus, although there are cases where it has been found in the placenta. In a study that followed children who were exposed to chemotherapy in utero for more than 18 years, none were found to have cancer or other serious abnormalities.

Some treatments may have to be delayed until after the baby is born. The goal is to carry the baby as close to full term as possible.

Chances of survival are unlikely to improve by ending the pregnancy. When compared to improve by ending the pregnancy. When compared

What Happens to My Baby if I Have Breast Cancer

Ending a pregnancy won’t improve a woman’s chances of beating breast cancer. Also, there’s no evidence that the cancer harms the baby But the treatments have risks.

Surgery, in general, is safe during any trimester of pregnancy. If the cancer is still in its early stages, your doctor will most likely recommend removing either the suspicious lump (lumpectomy) or the entire breast (mastectomy). If you’re in the first or second trimester, a mastectomy is the preferred surgery. Lumpectomy is usually an option for women diagnosed in the third trimester. Radiation therapy usually doesn’t start until after pregnancy because it can harm the baby.

During breast cancer surgery, the surgeon will examine the lymph nodes to see whether any are affected. They’ll often remove the ones where the cancer is most likely to have spread. If you need chemotherapy, your doctor will usually wait until after the first trimester to lessen the chance that it will harm the baby.

Advanced breast cancer usually requires both surgery and chemotherapy, so the risk for the baby is higher. The decision of whether or not to undergo treatment can be a very hard one. Talk with your family and doctor about what’s right for you.

Can I Breastfeed My Baby if I Have Breast Cancer?

There’s no evidence that stopping your flow of breast milk will improve your cancer.

It’s often okay to breastfeed when you have this disease, but talk with your doctor or a lactation counselor to see what’s best for you and your baby. If you’re getting chemotherapy, you likely shouldn’t breastfeed. Many powerful chemo drugs can travel through your milk to the baby.

What are the treatment options for breast cancer during pregnancy?

When coming up with a treatment plan, much will depend on extent of the cancer. Your doctors will consider:

  • the number and size of tumors
  • personal preferences
  • tumor grade, which indicates how quickly the cancer can be expected to grow and spread
  • your general health
  • the specific type of breast cancer
  • how far along you are in your pregnancy

MIMI (Multi ion mask insert)

  • Can be worn with any facemask and provides additional heavy-duty protection.
  • Adult & Youth Sizes Available

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy generally isn’t given during the first trimester of pregnancy, when the baby’s internal organs are developing. Studies show that it’s safer to use some chemo drugs during the second and third trimesters, but it’s not usually given in the final three weeks of pregnancy.

Use of chemotherapy may depend on the specific type of breast cancer you have and how aggressive it is. In some cases, waiting until after you deliver is an option.

Radiation

High doses of radiation given at any time during pregnancy can increase the risks of harm to the baby. These risks include:

  • childhood cancer
  • miscarriage
  • birth defects
  • slow fetal growth

Hormone and targeted therapies

Hormone therapies and targeted therapies aren’t considered safe to use during pregnancy. This includes:

  • aromatase inhibitors
  • trastuzumab (Herceptin)
  • bevacizumab (Avastin)
  • palbociclib (Ibrance)
  • everolimus (Afinitor)
  • lapatinib (Tykerb)

How does pregnancy affect survival rates for breast cancer?

Pregnancy can make it harder to find, diagnose, and treat breast cancer. Most studies have found that the outcomes among pregnant and non-pregnant women with breast cancer are about the same for cancers found at the same stage, but not all studies agree.

Some doctors believe that ending the pregnancy may help slow the course of more advanced breast cancers, and they may recommend that for some women with advanced breast cancer. It’s hard to do research in this area, and good, unbiased studies don’t exist. Ending the pregnancy makes treatment simpler, but so far no evidence shows that ending the pregnancy improves a woman’s overall survival or cancer outcome.

Studies have not shown that the treatment delays that are sometimes needed during pregnancy have an effect on breast cancer outcome, either. But this, too, has proven to be a difficult area to study. Finally, there are no reports showing that breast cancer itself can harm the baby.

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