Breast cancer is the most common cancer in pregnant women and tends to affect women in their mid-30s. Although pregnancy doesn't cause breast cancer, the hormonal changes in the body during pregnancy can accelerate its growth.The disease can be devastating to both the mother and child, so it is essential that pregnant women and their health care providers continue to perform routine breast exams throughout pregnancy. Any suspicious lumps and symptoms should be evaluated.
Because many changes take place in a woman's breasts during pregnancy, it can be more difficult to identify small masses, or lumps, during pregnancy. Breast masses can be mistaken for a normal change due to pregnancy. In addition, breast cancer tumors in pregnant women are often larger and more advanced by the time they are detected than lumps in women of the same age who are not pregnant.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in pregnant and postpartum women, occurring in about 1 in 3,000 pregnant women. The average patient is between 32 to 38 years of age and, with many women choosing to delay childbearing, it is likely that the incidence of breast cancer during pregnancy will increase.
Breast cancer pathology is similar in age-matched pregnant and nonpregnant women. Hormone receptor assays are usually negative in pregnant breast cancer patients, but this may be the result...
The best thing you can do while pregnant is to see your health care provider regularly. These doctor visits, called prenatal (or "before birth") visits, are very important in keeping both you and your baby in the best possible health. During these visits, your health care provider will perform a breast exam to check for suspicious breast changes.
It is also important for you to regularly perform self breast exams at home. Your doctor or nurse can teach you how to do this properly.
If a suspicious lump is found, your doctor should perform a biopsy. A mammogram may not be as helpful because of the increased density of the breasts due to pregnancy. A mammogram is usually 80% accurate, although adding a three-dimensional mammogram to a traditional digital screening may increase those odds. An ultrasound might be done as well to assess the extent of disease and guide the biopsy.
During the biopsy, a small sample of the suspicious tissue will be removed with a needle or by making a small cut. This sample is then thoroughly examined using a microscope and other methods to detect any cancer cells.