Pregnancy After Breast Cancer Stories
Looking for pregnancy after breast cancer stories is a common thing, as one of the most exciting events in a woman’s life—pregnancy–can quickly turn sour when it’s complicated with a breast cancer diagnosis.
We recently spoke with three Atlanta healthcare professionals about issues and challenges of breast cancer during pregnancy, as well as pregnancy after breast cancer stories:
- Paul Browne, MD, is an OBGYN and Director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at DeKalb Medical Centre in metropolitan Atlanta.
- Ruth O’Regan, MD, is a Medical Oncologist with the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta.
- Joyce King Ph.D, Family Nurse Practitioner and Certified Nurse Midwife is an Assistant Professor at the Emory University School of Nursing and a two-time breast cancer survivor.
Pregnancy after Breast Cancer Stories and FAQs
Pregnancy After Breast Cancer Stories : Is Breast Cancer Among Young Women (Pre-Menopausal) More Common Today?
(Browne) Pregnancy after breast cancer stories are becoming more prevalent as you are seeing more women with breast cancer who are pregnant, but not because there’s an increase in cancer among young women.
Instead, improved cancer therapies are allowing more women to survive treatment and, therefore, are giving them the option of having children: therefore resulting in more pregnancy after breast cancer stories.
(O’Regan) Breast cancer in younger women is rare, fortunately. However, I have treated patients as young as 18 so you do get pregnancy after breast cancer stories in this age range.
(King) Incidences of breast cancer for younger women and for older women are not increasing, although the public’s awareness of the disease is much greater than it used to be and you do get more pregnancy after breast cancer stories. Age remains the number one risk factor in developing breast cancer– the average age of diagnosis is 65. You hear statistics and pregnancy after breast cancer stories that one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer, but that’s if they live to be 90 years old. The risk of developing breast cancer at 30, for example, is much lower—it’s one in 2,500. This means that pregnancy after breast cancer stories can come from all ages.
In fact, breast cancer rates for women of all ages increased in the 1970s and ’80s, but stabilized in the ’90s and have remained at that level since then.
Another factor besides age in developing breast cancer is delaying pregnancy. More women today are postponing pregnancy until they are older, and it’s been seen in pregnancy after breast cancer stories that never being pregnant or delaying pregnancy is a significant risk factor.
Pregnancy After Breast Cancer Stories: early detection is critical for surviving cancer.
Pregnancy After Breast Cancer Stories: When Do You Advise Young Women to Start Breast Self-Exam and Other Screening Measures?
(O’Regan) A young woman should start performing a self-exam as soon as she starts going to a gynaecologist for a clinical exam. It is important for young women to conduct self-exams at an early age. Cysts are common in teenagers, so it’s good to become familiar with their breast tissue. With regular screening, it’s easier to spot any abnormality which should be covered in pregnancy after breast cancer stories.
I advise women to use more than one technique in screening for cancer—a monthly self-exam, yearly checkups with a healthcare professional and annual mammograms–so cancer can be detected before it’s too late to treat.
(King) Start when you have breasts. I’ve known of a 22-year-old woman, through pregnancy after breast cancer stories, who already had a large mass, so she probably had cancer since she was a teenager because cancer develops slowly. The American Cancer Society recommends a monthly breast self-exam.
The major concern women have with self-exams is they don’t know how to conduct it properly. The method of doing a breast self-exam has changed. Instead of doing circular motions around the breasts, a linear method is now recommended. You start under your arm and go up and down towards your sternum.
Breasts are denser in younger women which reduces the accuracy of mammograms. A mammogram is 75% accurate under the age of 50. After 50, the results are 80% effective. But mammography, along with a professional exam, is still the best method for detecting breast cancer at an early stage as can be seen in pregnancy after breast cancer stories.
Pregnancy After Breast Cancer Stories: What About the Birth Control Pill? Does It Have Any Effect on Breast Cancer?
(King) The U.S. Public Health Service Task Force, which looks at preventative healthcare, has no opinion–which means, it doesn’t see any evidence that self-exams are harmful or helpful. There are no good studies that say it decreases mortality, including in pregnancy after breast cancer stories.
(King) Studies have shown that the birth control pill can decrease the risk for ovarian and endometrial cancer, whereas it has no impact on breast cancer. However, most women on birth control typically are being assessed by a healthcare professional on a regular basis, so they are being screened for breast cancer.
Pregnancy After Breast Cancer Stories: How Does Breast Cancer Impact Pregnancy? Does Cancer Develop Faster, for Example? Can Cancer Affect the Fetus?
(Browne) During pregnancy, enormous levels of progesterone and estrogen are released in the blood. This stimulates ER (estrogen-receptive)-positive tumours which grow faster in pregnant women than non-pregnant women.
Breast cancer also places the pregnant patient in a situation of undergoing treatment options that could adversely impact her child. Cancer treatment options, including surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy all pose potential risks to the fetus, we have also seen this in pregnancy after breast cancer stories.
Chemotherapy, for example, infuses the body with poisons. It can cause miscarriage in early stages of pregnancy and poor growth of the fetus during late pregnancy. Surgery, such as a lumpectomy, requires the patient to go under anaesthesia. And, anaesthesia has been shown, in studies and pregnancy after breast cancer stories, to be a risk factor for causing miscarriage. Radiation during pregnancy can cause the mother to miscarry in the first trimester, and also increases the child’s chance of developing cancer as they get older.
As a result of each of these risks, women are faced with the tough decision of undergoing treatment or terminating the pregnancy. If they delay treatment to end of their pregnancy, their cancer may advance, decreasing their chances of survival.
(O’Regan) Breast cancer has no impact on the fetus. The fetus is protected from breast cancer because it cannot cross the placenta. However, other types of cancers can affect the fetus. There is placenta cancer, in which cancer originates in the placenta, but this is rare. Melanoma (skin cancer), however, is extremely common and can cross the placenta, seen in studies and pregnancy after breast cancer stories.
When it comes to pregnancy after breast cancer stories and professional medical approaches, treatment options are also fewer for women who are pregnant. Radiation therapy, for example, is not an option for pregnant patients. With surgery, the only option is a mastectomy. You can’t do a lymph node dissection because you can’t use the blue dye to look at the lymph nodes. Some chemotherapy, such as adriomycin & cytocin, can be given in the second and third trimester with no risk to the fetus. During the first trimester, however, no chemo should be administered.
(King) The problem is that physical changes in the breasts during pregnancy can affect early detection, and there are difficulties in treatment of breast cancer.
Regarding detection: during pregnancy, breasts are larger, firmer and denser, which makes it more difficult for diagnosis through conventional means such as mammography.
With dense breasts, it is preferable to use ultrasound to distinguish between cystic masses and solid masses. There are often problems as well with pregnant women developing hematomas from breast biopsies as seen in studies and pregnancy after breast cancer stories.
Studies and pregnancy after breast cancer stories also show that treatment has added complications. If she undergoes surgery, pregnant women are more likely to have blood clots since there’s more coagulation during this time. In addition, she can’t have an axillary dissection of the centenal node because the dye has a chemical in it that can potentially harm the fetus.
She must postpone radiation therapy until after delivery. And, there are certain chemo drugs she can take; however, the long term effects of chemo on the fetus are not known. Although we’ve been using chemo for more 20 years on pregnant women and it doesn’t appear to have an effect on the child, but data is limited across medical experience and pregnancy after breast cancer stories.
Pregnancy After Breast Cancer Stories: What Are Some Common Misconceptions About Cancer and Pregnancy?
(O’Regan) There are a number of misconceptions when it comes to pregnancy after cancer stories, but a primary one is that women can never get pregnant again if they have cancer treatment. This is untrue—in fact, many patients become pregnant after breast cancer and there are pregnancy after breast cancer stories to show this. However, that’s not always the case.
I recommend women treated for breast cancer to wait two years until anther pregnancy because that’s when there’s the highest chance of reoccurrence. Also, taking tamoxifen after treatment will postpone the time a woman can get pregnant. We’ve seen this in studies and pregnancy after breast cancer stories.
(Browne) The biggest myth is that women can have the full spectrum of treatment during pregnancy. That’s not true—they can’t have all the treatment and be pregnant. If they choose treatment, it has to be altered to take into consideration the pregnancy.
Pregnancy After Breast Cancer Stories: What Are the Dangers of Being Younger and Battling Cancer? Is It More Aggressive in Younger Women Because of Increased Estrogen Levels in Their Bodies? Does It Tend to Go Undetected Among Younger Women so It Ends up Being More Advanced?
(Browne) Breast cancer is more difficult to diagnose using any screening method during pregnancy. The breasts change and become denser, as shown by studies and pregnancy after breast cancer stories. This is also true during breast feeding. Therefore, it’s harder to identify a small tumour; exams are less accurate.
Patients expect breasts to be different so if they feel something, they dismiss it as pregnancy-related and not a problem. My advice is that if you have any concerns, get it checked out with a general exam. And, don’t stop breast self-exams during pregnancy. Also, look at some pregnancy after breast cancer stories to see how people got on.
(King) Younger women tend to have more aggressive cancers, which we can see through studies and pregnancy after breast cancer stories. First of all, they are more likely to have tumours that are not sensitive to estrogen, so they can’t take tamoxifen, which can block the estrogen effect.
Pregnancy After Breast Cancer Stories: What Special Precautions Do Pregnant Women Need to Take If They Have Cancer? What Do They Need to Avoid?
(Browne) Pregnant women with cancer should pay more attention to their nutrition. They need, for example, more protein to repair their bodies and feed their baby. Alongside professional medical advice, taking a look at pregnancy after breast cancer stories can help you get an idea.
(King) They first must avoid radiation therapy as well as radiology procedures such as MRI, brain scans, bone scans and liver scans. Some diagnostic techniques can increase the risk of miscarriage or inhibit fetus growth. Some procedures and therapies can also increase the risk of childhood malignancy and leukaemia as well as birth defects.
Pregnancy After Breast Cancer Stories: Are There Activities Patients Need to Do, Such as Special Diet or Other Considerations, Since Their Body Is Undergoing Stress from Both Pregnancy and Cancer?
(King) This is very individualized, but the general rule is take care of yourself by eating a well-balanced diet, exercising, getting plenty of rest and continuing to take prenatal vitamins. For information on how people do this, consult your doctor or check out some pregnancy after breast cancer stories.
(Browne) Patients who have dealt with this situation the best have relied on a strong support system of family and friends. I highly recommend patients to take advantage of counselling and support groups –which hospitals with cancer centres offer.