Originally posted February 3, 2014.
Pregnancy can be extremely demanding on its own. There are many things to learn about and keep track of, from nutrition to acceptable exercises. Despite this it should be regarded as a joyous occasion. Breast cancer is, of course, equally demanding and a very serious matter. It is important to understand the dangers specifically related to the scenario where these two meet, but also to remember that the joy of recovery and bringing a new life into the world are both down the road.
In the past, women typically had children at a very early age. Breast cancer is less likely to develop in younger women, so there have been relatively few cases of pregnant women with breast cancer – about one for every 3,000 pregnancies. Cancer in general during pregnancy is quite rare. Women are not less likely to survive cancer if they are pregnant or have just given birth, however it is infinitely easier to treat (and diagnose) cancer without another life developing inside of the womb. Cancer treatments and drugs may also reduce fertility, and trying to get pregnant right after recovery may cause the cancerous cells to reappear due to the production of hormones.
Menstrual Cycles And Breast Cancer
Estrogen is a normal growth hormone produced in the body during the menstrual cycle which has been associated with cancer growth after large amounts of exposure.
Since estrogen production ceases during pregnancy, getting pregnant at a young age can actually reduce the chances of breast cancer developing.
Anything else that ends up reducing a woman’s total number of menstrual cycles will provide the same benefit.
Something that may comfort pregnant women with breast cancer is that breastfeeding is one of these – it is in fact completely healthy for both the mother and child even if cancer is present.
Treatment Options During Pregnancy
As with all situations, treatment will largely depend on the size and location of the tumor, but also in this case how developed the baby is.
Any kind of radiation is extremely dangerous for an unborn baby, and technology can only control it so much.
If the cancer is not severe and the pregnancy is relatively far along, it may be best to just postpone serious treatment until the child is born to avoid any risk.
There are some forms of breast cancer where, regardless of how far along it is, this is extremely risky to the mother.
Surgery is generally considered the safest method for the combined interest of the child and mother, but is not always an option.
Chemotherapy carries a much lower risk than radiation therapy if performed after the first three months of pregnancy. Hormone therapy is absolutely not a good idea, as this is a well-known cause of birth defects.
While breast cancer is a horrible and arduous experience, treatment is becoming increasingly available and survival rates are always climbing.
The joy of pregnancy does not have to be ruined, especially for younger mothers. Treatment is always ultimately up to the patient, but a doctor can advise which method may provide the least risk to the child and mother.
Rachel is a mom of two who enjoys writing about topics on pregnancy, birth, baby or breastfeeding related. She currently writes for Mommy Edition, a site that focus on topics such as pregnancy, parenting, kids, relationships or any subject matter in relation to moms.