Breast Cancer and Pregnancy
Ending the pregnancy does not seem to improve the mother's chance of survival and is not usually a treatment option.
If the cancer must be treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, which may harm the fetus, ending the pregnancy is sometimes considered. This decision may depend on the stage of cancer, the age of the fetus, and the mother's chance of survival.
Treatment options for pregnant women depend on the stage of the disease and the age of the fetus. Three types of standard treatment are used:
- Radiation therapy
Most pregnant women with breast cancer have surgery to remove the breast. Some of the lymph nodes under the arm are usually taken out and looked at under a microscope to see if they contain cancer cells.
Types of surgery to remove the breast include:
- Simple mastectomy: A surgical procedure to remove the whole breast that contains cancer. Some of the lymph nodes under the arm may also be removed for biopsy. This procedure is also called a total mastectomy.
- Modified radical mastectomy: A surgical procedure to remove the whole breast that has cancer, many of the lymph nodes under the arm, the lining over the chest muscles, and sometimes, part of the chest wall muscles.
- Breast-conserving surgery: An operation to remove the cancer but not the breast itself.
- Lumpectomy: This is a breast-conserving surgery in which a tumor (lump) is removed, as is a small amount of normal tissue around it. Most doctors also take out some of the lymph nodes under the arm.
- Partial mastectomy: This is another breast-conserving surgery in which part of the breast that contains cancer is removed, as is some normal tissue around it. Some of the lymph nodes under the arm may also be removed for biopsy. This procedure is also called a segmental mastectomy.
Even if the doctor removes all of the cancer that can be seen at the time of surgery, the patient may be given radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or hormone therapy after surgery to try to kill any cancer cells that may be left. Treatment given after surgery to increase the chances of a cure is called adjuvant therapy.