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Breast Cancer And Pregnancy: When Carrying A New Life Becomes A Life And Death Decision

Pregnancy is a great time, but it can also be very troubling.  Will you eat the wrong kind of fish?  Did you forget your pregnancy vitamin again?  Is it really time to chuck your favorite jeans for the more comfortable (but less fashionable) maternity pants?  Wine, yes or no?

For some women and families they wish these were the only choices they have to make, but it isn’t that simple.  According to Cancer.org, breast cancer is rare in pregnancy, but with women having children later in life, the timelines for the two instances to occur simultaneously are on the rise.  Women are finding out they have the disease during breastfeeding, but also while their bodies are gestating.  This is when breast cancer becomes much more devastating because treatment not only affects the mother, but the questions arise as to how to treat the mother without harming the fetus.

Pregnant women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer now have more options to deal with their diagnosis medically without harming the new life growing inside of them.  Surgery to remove the entire breast is available, but so are lumpectomies.  Lumpectomies are a little more invasive as they need to be followed up with radiation which is harmful to the fetus.  Most doctors elect to postpone radiation until after the baby is born due to the chance for mutations.  It can be given in extreme cases with proper protection.

Chemotherapy isn’t anyone’s favorite part of getting rid of cancer, but it is now available as an option to expectant mothers. The first trimester is not the time for this treatment as the baby is still forming organs, however, doctors are less reluctant to administer chemo to pregnant women.  Due to the gestational time frame of the pregnancy the doctor may delay chemotherapy altogether if at all possible.

Breastfeeding mothers who have breast cancer may have to stop breastfeeding their children for most procedures. Surgery is more successful when the blood flow is less to the area and post-operation complications decrease when women don’t have milk collecting in the areas effected by surgery.  Chemo and hormone therapy can be passed to the baby so breastfeeding during these treatments is also discouraged.

Of course, conversations with your healthcare professional about all of these matters is suggested so that all the needs and wants of the mother and baby can be addressed.

 

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