Breast Cancer & Pregnancy

It is of prime importance that the obstetrician’s take a thorough breast examination of pregnant women to detect breast cancer. Often, the diagnosis is delayed because doctors and pregnant women assume that lumps in the breast are due to normal hormonal changes.

The threat of breast cancer is upsetting for anyone, particularly during pregnancy, but it is not uncommon. Pregnant women and physicians should become more aware of the risk associated with cancer. The obstetricians are usually more focused on the health of the unborn baby than the mother’s possible illness but should be more aware of the risk of breast cancer. Women should examine their breasts regularly and tell their doctor about any changes they discover.

Not only is diagnosis often delayed, but there is a high rate of false-negative results of a mammography due to the increased density of the breast during pregnancy.

Ultrasonogaphy is the best way to check for cancerous lumps in pregnant and lactating women. Many studies have shown that the tumors in pregnant women are larger and are more likely to spread.
Pregnant women should be encouraged to know that treatment is as successful and safe as in non-pregnant women. Surgery is the best route although there is a small risk of premature labor. Radiation therapy is not offered during pregnancy but patients can be safely treated with certain forms of chemotherapy from three months onwards. This may be continued after the baby is born, although mothers should not breast feed their babies while they are having chemotherapy.

Treatments are planned around the expected delivery date and are administered as close to term as possible, Through the process, oncologists communicate regularly with a woman’s obstetrician.
A substantially greater number of pregnant women have been treated now than ever before, providing a growing confidence in the safety and positive outcome of chemotherapy for pregnant breast cancer patients Carter and baby Emma are perfect examples. Weighing 5 pounds, 14 ounces, Emma entered the world with a “full head of hair,” laughs Carter, who says she was “completely bald” when her “miracle child” was born.

Overall survival of pregnant women with breast cancer may be worse than in non pregnant women at all stages however, this may be due primarily to delayed diagnoses. Termination of pregnancy has not been shown to have any beneficial effect on breast cancer outcome and is not usually considered as a therapeutic option. Termination of pregnancy, however, may be considered, based on the age of the fetus, and if maternal treatment options, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, are significantly limited by the continuation of the pregnancy.

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