Embrace: Pregnancy and Breast Cancer

August 30, 2022

Disclaimer: The following information has been collected from various websites which are listed below. This is an overall summary based on the findings H4TG has collected.

Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis can present a variety of emotions, thoughts, and responses. It has been noted that breast cancer occurs about once in every 3,000 pregnancies and it occurs most often in women aged 32 to 38 years (National Cancer Institute, 2022). The information contained within this discussion will present and reflect on current research related to breast cancer and pregnancy. It is important to note that since each individual's journey is unique, the information discussed might not apply to all, and follow-up with one’s physician is paramount. Research indicates that during the first visit to an OBGYN, a routine breast exam is completed and then repeated throughout the pregnancy (National Cancer Institute, 2022). Reviewed information further explains that it may be difficult to find lumps due to hormonal changes and one’s breast becoming denser (National Cancer Institute, 2022).

The research was reviewed regarding treatment options for breast cancer while pregnant and the following information was obtained.  Initial information collected from the American Cancer Society revealed that some treatments for breast cancer can complicate a pregnancy and were dependent on a variety of factors. Therefore, if these treatments are needed, they are usually scheduled after the baby is born. According to information obtained from Johns Hopkins Medicine, if breast cancer is detected, typically during the first trimester, chemotherapy can cause birth defects or loss of the baby, and for this reason is not given during this time (Johns Hopkins Medicine, n.d.) Further investigation of information obtained from the American Cancer Society revealed that some chemotherapy can be safely given in the second and third trimesters, without harm to the baby (American Cancer Society, 2021). Regarding breast feeding, information obtained from the American Cancer Society indicates that if surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy are planned, lactation (breast milk production) and breast-feeding should be stopped (American Cancer Society, 2021).

Regarding pregnancy and breast cancer survival or response to treatment the following information was found. According to information obtained from the American Cancer Society, breast cancer usually does not harm the unborn baby and pregnancy does not seem to affect the survival of women who have had breast cancer in the past (American Cancer Society, 2021). Further information collected from the American Cancer Society explained that although older studies had indicated that ending the pregnancy does not seem to have a positive impact on a patient’s outcome, there were identifiable flaws in the research. The American Cancer Society explained that although ending a pregnancy is no longer recommended on a routine basis, a discussion with one’s treatment team would be advisable especially when facing a metastatic or aggressive form of breast cancer (American Cancer Society, 2021). Finally, the American Cancer Society information did reveal that some physicians believe that ending a pregnancy may decelerate the rate of cancers that are more aggressive or advanced (American Cancer Society, 2021.) These writers believe that a detailed discussion with one’s treatment team regarding individual circumstances and options is vital.

It is worth noting that according to the National Cancer Institute some physicians recommend that a woman wait 2 years after treatment for breast cancer before trying to have a baby, so that any early return of the cancer would be detected (National Cancer Institute, 2022).

To continue reading about breast cancer and pregnancy visit the links below:

Breast cancer treatment during pregnancy (PDQ®)–patient version. National Cancer Institute. (2022, April 14). Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/patient/pregnancy-breast-treatment-pdq

John Hopkins Medicine (2002). Pregnancy-Related Breast Cancer. Sidney Kimmel Center. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/kimmel_cancer_center/cancers_we_treat/breast_cancer_program/treatment_and_services/rare_breast_tumors/pregnancy_related_breast_cancer.html

Keyser, E. A., Staat, B. C., Fausett, M. B., & Shields, A. D. (2012). Pregnancy-associated breast cancer. Reviews in obstetrics & gynecology, 5(2), 94–99.

MedicineNet. (2005, March 9). Breast cancer during pregnancy: Get facts on symptoms. MedicineNet. Retrieved from https://www.medicinenet.com/breast_cancer_during_pregnancy/article.htm#can_i_breastfeed_my_baby_if_i_have_breast_cancer

Morocco, D. E. (2015). Pregnancy-Associated Breast Cancer. U.S. Pharmacist. https://www.uspharmacist.com/article/pregnancy-associated-breast-cancer

Support and survivorship. Riverside. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.riversideonline.com/medical-services/cancer-care/types-of-cancer-we-treat/breast-cancer/support-and-survivorship

Treating breast cancer during pregnancy. American Cancer Society. (2021, October 27). Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/treatment/treating-breast-cancer-during-pregnancy.html#:~:text=Chemotherapy%20seems%20to%20be%20safe,not%20usually%20given%20during%20pregnancy



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