Breast Cancer in Pregnancy

February 16, 2009

Perhaps one of the most devastating events for a woman carrying her child is to be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Written by Don Dizon, MD, FACP

Perhaps one of the most devastating events for a woman carrying her child is to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Even today, fear and sadness are the most common reactions to a diagnosis as women struggle to balance what is best for them and what is best for their child. It is not surprising that even today, suspicions abound that breast cancer can pass to the unborn child (it cannot) and that the only safe medical recommendation for a pregnant woman with breast cancer is to abort (it isn't). Further proof that pregnant women with breast cancer do just as well as non-pregnant women has been published in the journal of Cancer. In this paper, researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center performed a record study involving over 650 women treated over three decades. Comparing a cohort of women with cancer during pregnancy to othes in whom cancer was not associated with pregnancy, there was no difference at 10-years in terms of having a breast cancer recurrence locally or regionally (within the same breast, chest wall, or armpit) or seeking it develop at other sites like the liver and lungs. The overall survival rate for women in this situation was reported at approximately 65% in both groups. One of the more important findings of the study was the importance of initiating treatment during pregnancy and not waiting until after delivery. The overall survival with prompt treatment was 79%, but if treatment was delayed until after delivery, survival reportedly dropped to 45%.

Source: BM Beadle, et al. The impact of pregnancy on breast cancer outcomes in women younger than 35 years old. Cancer 2009.