What to Know if You're Diagnosed with Breast Cancer While You're Pregnant
While it is rare for a pregnant woman to be diagnosed with breast cancer—about one in 3,000—there is a chance that this rate will go up, given the increasing number of women who have children after age 35.
It is often difficult to diagnose breast cancer in a pregnant woman, because the body changes so much during pregnancy. Breasts tend to get larger, more tender, and lumpier, which makes it harder for you or your doctor to find a lump. Or lumps are ignored because they are attributed to the normal changes that happen during pregnancy. Mammograms are also harder to read because breasts are denser.
Treatment is also more difficult for a pregnant woman, and depends upon how far along she is when she receives the diagnosis as well as the size and location of the tumor.
Surgery—either a lumpectomy or mastectomy—is the first line of treatment for pregnant and non-pregnant women alike. Chemotherapy may be an option in the second and third trimesters; however, if you are already in your third trimester when you are diagnosed, chemotherapy may be delayed until after you give birth.
Radiation and hormone therapy, which are used as treatments after surgery, are not started until after you give birth because of the potential risks they pose to the unborn child.