A common misconception about breast cancer is that it only affects older women over the age of 50. While this age group is the one most affected by breast cancer, it is possible for younger women to be diagnosed with this disease. One of the most troubling times when this diagnosis can arise is during pregnancy; this type of diagnosis is rare, but it does happen in about one in 3,000 pregnancies according to the American Cancer Society. Here are some important facts to help you cope with breast cancer if you have been diagnosed during your pregnancy:
- Treatment will vary depending on the trimester: Breast cancer diagnosed early on in pregnancy will typically be treated with mastectomy, which is the total removal of the breast. This treatment is preferred because it does not require radiation follow-up as lumpectomy does. Later in pregnancy, carefully selected chemotherapy drugs may be used for treatment. These drugs are not safe at the earliest stages of pregnancy, but they have been proven safe for use during the second and third trimesters. Cancer diagnosed later in the third trimester may not be treated until after labor is induced so there is no risk to the baby during treatment.
- Breastfeeding may still be possible: If chemotherapy is not currently being used and the breasts are still able to produce milk, there is no reason that you cannot breastfeed your baby. Of course, it is still important to discuss this with your doctor before you begin breastfeeding.
- The odds are in your favor: In previous cases where mothers have been diagnosed with breast cancer during pregnancy, babies have been born healthy and happy to mothers overcoming the disease. Treatment will be designed specifically for your needs as an expectant mother, and your baby’s health will remain a priority throughout your cancer care.
For complete, personalized care to help you carry out a full-term pregnancy after a cancer diagnosis, contact Sunrise Children’s Hospital online or by calling our Consult-A-Nurse healthcare referral line at (702) 731-5437. As part of the HCA Health System, we are connected to a vast network of the finest physicians and treatment technologies, so we can deliver the comprehensive care you need in this tough situation.