Breast cancer during pregnancy
Breast cancer during pregnancy is uncommon. However if you find a lump or notice any changes in your breast that concerns you, contact your doctor. There are various tests that can be done to diagnose breast cancer during pregnancy. There are also various treatment options for treating breast cancer during pregnancy .
If you are pregnant and diagnosed with breast cancer , it may be called gestational breast cancer or pregnancy – associated breast cancer PABC.
Even though breastfeeding during pregnancy is rare, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer found during pregnancy, while breastfeeding or within the first year of delivery.
Breast cancer is hard to diagnose during pregnancy
It is difficult to diagnose breast cancer during pregnancy . This is because hormonal changes during pregnancy cause changes in the breast. As a result the breast becomes healthy and lumpy. This makes it difficult for the doctor or yourself to detect a lump caused by cancer until it has become quite large.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding also makes the breast tissues denser. This makes it difficult to see an early cancer on a mammogram.
Because of these challenges, it is difficult to for breast cancer to be diagnosed early in pregnant women. They cancer would have most likely spread to the lymph nodes when detected.
Can breast cancer spread to the baby ?
In rare cases, the cancer can reached the placenta . This could affect the amount of nutrients the baby gets from the mother. However there haven’t been any reports of breast cancer being transferred from the mother to the baby.
- If you find a lump or any changes of concern in your breast, do not ignore. Contact your doctor right away
- Mammograms can be used to detect cancers that start during pregnancy and they are known to be safe to use during pregnancy . The radiation is focused on the breast but for extra protection, a lead shield is placed over the lower part of the belly to help keep radiation from reaching the womb
- Biopsies can be used to determine if breast changes are cancer. Biopsies causes little risk to the baby.
- The stage of the cancer can be determined using different tests that are safe during pregnancy such as MRI and ultrasound. However MRI with contrast dye is not safe during pregnancy and as a result not used
- Other tests such as PET scans, bone scans, and computed tomography (CT) scans are more likely to expose the fetus to radiation. These tests are not needed especially if the cancer is thought to be located only in the breasts.
- Treatments are available for pregnant women with breast cancer. Your doctor will discuss your options with you
Screening for breast cancer during pregnancy. Breast cancer. org. http://www.breastcancer.org/tips/fert_preg_adopt/bc_pregnancy/screening. Accessed August 9th, 2017
Breast changes during pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/breast-changes-during-pregnancy/. Accessed August 9th, 2017