Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis at any stage of life can be trying for a woman, but being diagnosed during pregnancy is among the most challenging situations that this disease may present. It is important to note that breast cancer during pregnancy is incredibly rare, but there has been a slight increase in cases because more women are having their first pregnancies later in life. This article will explore some of the factors related to pregnancy-associated breast cancer and treatments recommended for pregnant patients.
Breast cancer risks and pregnancy
Women who have their first pregnancy after 30 are at a slightly higher risk for breast cancer, because pregnancy affects the body’s hormonal balance and reduces exposure to estrogen. While pregnancy later in life is in no way a guarantee that breast cancer will develop during or just after gestation, women who do become pregnant later in adulthood should speak with their physicians about their breast health concerns.
Diagnosing cancer during pregnancy
Unfortunately, when breast cancer is diagnosed during pregnancy it is often in later stages and has spread to the lymph nodes. This is because the breast tissue undergoes many changes during pregnancy and becomes denser, so lumps may be missed during both self-exams and mammograms. Still, mammograms are considered safe during pregnancy, so they should remain part of your routine if you are due for this imaging exam.
Possible treatment options
Conventional treatment options like chemotherapy and radiation have significant risks to consider during pregnancy. Radiation is not used at all in pregnancy, while chemotherapy is not considered an option in the first three months of the pregnancy. Surgery may still be used, as it is often the first line of treatment for breast cancer, and it will have the lowest impact on the developing baby. In some cases, all treatments may be delayed until the baby is born. The recommended guidelines will depend on the stage of pregnancy, size of the tumor, and the aggressiveness of the cancer’s growth.
With Brandon Regional Hospital in Hillsborough County, you can find excellent breast and prenatal care to help you have a healthy pregnancy in any situation. Learn how we can help you move forward from a tough cancer diagnosis by visiting our website or calling (888) 327-2636.