breast cancer during pregnancy

Topic: What to know about breast cancer during pregnancy

Breast cancer during pregnancy is relatively rare. About 1 in every 3,000 people who are pregnant develop breast cancer, but it is the most common type of cancer found during pregnancy.

Those statistics comes from the National Cancer Institute.

Pregnant people will experience changes in their breasts such as swelling and tenderness, which may result in lumps. While many lumps that develop during pregnancy are not cancerous, a person should still have any lumps they find checked by a health professional.

Many pregnant people who receive a diagnosis of breast cancer respond to treatment just as well as non-pregnant people of the same age with the same stage of cancer.

However, a pregnant person may face complications in treating their cancer, as there may be conflicts between the best-known treatment for the parent and the well-being of the baby.

This article will discuss the safety of breast cancer treatment while pregnant, including surgery and chemotherapy, and will also discuss treatment in relation to breastfeeding.

People with breast cancer who are pregnant can undergo certain treatments safely, although some carry a higher risk to an unborn baby.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) offers guidelines on safe treatment for the parent and baby according to how far along the pregnancy is. Access to the guidelines is free, but requires registering an account.

First trimester

Experts recommend a mastectomy with lymph node biopsy, according to the NCCN guidelines. A mastectomy is the surgical removal of the breast tissue from a breast. Testing the lymph nodes in the armpit can indicate whether or not the cancer has spread from the breast area.

Experts recommend a mastectomy, rather than a lumpectomy with radiation, because radiation is not safe for the fetus. A lumpectomy is the surgical removal of cancerous or abnormal tissue from the breast.

Chemotherapy is not safe for the fetus during the first trimester of pregnancy.

If a patient decides to pursue breast cancer treatment that would endanger a fetus, such as that used to treat an aggressive form of cancer, they may choose to terminate their pregnancy and concentrate fully on treatment. However, research suggests that ending a pregnancy does not appear to affect the mother’s chances of survival.

Second trimester

If doctors diagnose breast cancer during a person’s second trimester of pregnancy, the NCCN guidelines recommend either a mastectomy or lumpectomy, with the biopsy of a lymph node from the armpit.

Doctors may also start chemotherapy before surgery. If the doctor and patient agree on a lumpectomy, the patient should receive radiation therapy and possibly hormonal therapy at the end of the pregnancy.

Topic Discussed: What to know about breast cancer during pregnancy

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