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Breast Cancer During Pregnancy: Can Cancer Affect The Unborn Baby?

The incidence of breast cancer during pregnancy is approximately 1 in 3000 and is the second most common malignancy affecting pregnant women. Pregnancy-associated breast cancer (PABC) refers to breast cancer diagnosed during pregnancy or during the first postpartum year after giving birth.

There are approximately 6.5 per cent of all breast cancer cases diagnosed in women over the age of 40 years. With more women delaying childbearing and breast cancer rates increasing, more cases of PABC are expected to be diagnosed in the future [1][2].

Breast Cancer During Pregnancy

Generally, women ignore any discomfort that occurs during pregnancy as it is considered a normal physiological reaction. If you experience any changes in your breasts, you should take them seriously. Read on to learn how to detect breast cancer during pregnancy in order to prevent devastating consequences. Because, after all, prevention is always better than cure [3].

As a result of hormonal changes during pregnancy, such as increased levels of progesterone and oestrogen, breasts that are being prepared for lactation are already thicker and tender, and have grown in size as a result. Therefore, how can a woman detect breast cancer lumps when she is pregnant?

How To Detect Breast Cancer Lumps When Pregnant?

Fortunately, there are ways to detect breast cancer when one is pregnant. During pregnancy, this disease tends to grow much more quickly, so every woman should be evaluated by her doctor if she exhibits any possible symptoms.

1. Self evaluation

Even though a self evaluation may not be very accurate during pregnancy, that does not mean it loses its importance. Do not hesitate to consult your doctor as soon as possible if you discover any sort of abnormal lump, swelling, or discharge from your nipples. Being cautious is always a good idea [4].

2. Mammography

A mammography examination uses a small amount of x-rays to examine the inside of the breasts. The abdomen should be covered up during pregnancy in order to protect the foetus from radiation. It is very useful in detecting cancer at an early stage and can be treated effectively [5].

3. Ultrasonography

An ultrasound is performed in order to differentiate between cystic and solid breast tissue. Nevertheless, a biopsy is extremely important if anything is found, in order to determine whether the tumour is malignant. Since there is no radiation risk to the foetus, it is absolutely safe.

4. Breast biopsy

During a breast biopsy, a small part of the affected tissue or fluid is removed from the patient's body and examined under a microscope. It is then evaluated for the presence of breast cancer, making it one of the most accurate methods of diagnosing breast cancer.

5. Breast MRI

With the use of magnets and radio waves, magnetic resonance imaging is used to detect breast cancer during pregnancy. The imaging process produces a cross-sectional image of the organ and its tissues in a vivid and detailed manner. As a result of these images, doctors are able to determine whether cancer cells are present in the breasts [7].

6. Pathology

An in-depth pathology report can help evaluate the condition of a woman's breasts during pregnancy. Hormonal imbalances and other body conditions can be used to identify the likelihood of breast cancer in the patient.

What Happens If A Pregnant Woman Has Cancer?

When cancer occurs during pregnancy, it can be more difficult to diagnose and treat because the foetus is rarely affected by the cancer itself. Because tests to diagnose cancer and treatments can adversely affect the foetus, we will take extra precautions in your medical care [8].

Can Cancer Affect An Unborn Baby?

A mother may pass on cancer to her baby during pregnancy, but it is extremely rare. So far, only about 17 suspected cases have been reported, the majority of which were in patients with leukaemia and melanoma [9]. In 2009, a Japanese case was the first to be used as an example of how this can occur [10].

Story first published: Wednesday, December 28, 2022, 22:30 [IST]
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