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Breast Cancer Treatment and Pregnancy (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Early Stage Breast Cancer (Stage I and II)

Surgery is recommended as the primary treatment of breast cancer in pregnant women. Since radiation in therapeutic doses may expose the fetus to potentially harmful scatter radiation,[1] modified radical mastectomy is the treatment of choice. Conservative surgery with postpartum radiation therapy has been used for breast preservation.[2] An analysis has been performed that helps to predict the risk of waiting to have radiation.[3,4]

If adjuvant chemotherapy is necessary, it should not be given during the first trimester to avoid the risk of teratogenicity. Chemotherapy given after the first trimester is generally not associated with a high risk of fetal malformation but may be associated with premature labor and fetal wastage. If considered necessary, chemotherapy may be given after the first trimester. Data on the immediate and long-term effects of chemotherapy on the fetus are limited.[2,4,5,6,7,8,9]

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Studies using adjuvant hormonal therapy alone or in combination with chemotherapy for breast cancer in pregnant women are also limited. Therefore, no conclusion has been reached regarding these options.[10] Radiation therapy, if indicated, should be withheld until after delivery since it may be harmful to the fetus at any stage of development.[1]


  1. Kal HB, Struikmans H: Radiotherapy during pregnancy: fact and fiction. Lancet Oncol 6 (5): 328-33, 2005.
  2. Gwyn K, Theriault R: Breast cancer during pregnancy. Oncology (Huntingt) 15 (1): 39-46; discussion 46, 49-51, 2001.
  3. Nettleton J, Long J, Kuban D, et al.: Breast cancer during pregnancy: quantifying the risk of treatment delay. Obstet Gynecol 87 (3): 414-8, 1996.
  4. Kuerer HM, Gwyn K, Ames FC, et al.: Conservative surgery and chemotherapy for breast carcinoma during pregnancy. Surgery 131 (1): 108-10, 2002.
  5. Clark RM, Chua T: Breast cancer and pregnancy: the ultimate challenge. Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol) 1 (1): 11-8, 1989.
  6. Giacalone PL, Laffargue F, Bénos P: Chemotherapy for breast carcinoma during pregnancy: A French national survey. Cancer 86 (11): 2266-72, 1999.
  7. Rugo HS: Management of breast cancer diagnosed during pregnancy. Curr Treat Options Oncol 4 (2): 165-73, 2003.
  8. Cardonick E, Iacobucci A: Use of chemotherapy during human pregnancy. Lancet Oncol 5 (5): 283-91, 2004.
  9. Berry DL, Theriault RL, Holmes FA, et al.: Management of breast cancer during pregnancy using a standardized protocol. J Clin Oncol 17 (3): 855-61, 1999.
  10. Isaacs RJ, Hunter W, Clark K: Tamoxifen as systemic treatment of advanced breast cancer during pregnancy--case report and literature review. Gynecol Oncol 80 (3): 405-8, 2001.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

    Last Updated: 8/, 015
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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