Breast Cancer and Pregnancy
What Happens to my Baby if I Have Breast Cancer? continued...
During breast cancer surgery, the surgeon will examine the lymph nodes to see whether any are affected and will (usually) remove the lymph nodes where the cancer is most likely to have spread. If it is necessary to give chemotherapy, your doctor will usually wait until after the first trimester to reduce the chances that it will harm the baby.
If breast cancer is more advanced (Stage III or IV), the situation can become very complicated. If radiation is needed to treat the cancer, it can be very hard to protect the baby. Additionally, these cancers usually require both surgery and chemotherapy, so the risk of harming the baby is much higher. There have been instances where the cancer is advanced to the point where any treatment is not likely to add more than a year or two to the woman's life. In these cases, whether or not to undergo the treatment and risk harming the baby can be an agonizing decision for both the woman and her family.
Can I Breastfeed my Baby if I Have Breast Cancer?
Breastfeeding while you have breast cancer will not harm your baby. Moreover, there is no evidence that stopping your flow of breast milk will improve your cancer.
However, if you are undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, you should not breastfeed because these powerful chemotherapy drugs can travel through your breast milk to the baby.
Can I Get Pregnant After Successful Treatment for Breast Cancer?
Pregnancy does not change the overall length of time a woman who has had breast cancer can expect to live. At this point, it appears that babies born to women who have had breast cancer in the past are normal and healthy. However, it is possible that babies born to women who have had extensive radiation, chemotherapy, or a bone marrow transplant may have problems.
Some doctors feel that postponing pregnancy for two years or so after being treated for breast cancer will make it less likely that your cancer will come back while you are pregnant, and lead to the problems discussed earlier in this section.