Breast Cancer and Pregnancy
Traditionally, doctors have advised women who have been
diagnosed with breast cancer to terminate their pregnancies
during treatment. Pregnancy causes increased levels of estrogen
to circulate in the mother's blood. Increases in circulating estrogen
have been associated with more aggressive breast cancers.
Doctors are also concerned that the chemotherapy used to treat
breast cancer may be damaging to the fetus.
This "pitting of mother against baby" may not be necessary,
according to a new study. The study followed 22 women and their
babies over an eight-year period. At the conclusion of the study,
70% of the women were alive and disease-free almost four years
after delivery. The researchers also found little to no differences in
the survival rates of pregnant and non-pregnant breast cancer
patients, indicating that the increases in estrogen levels does not
affect the outcome of breast cancer.
But what about the baby? According to this study, mastectomy,
radiation therapy, and mammography do not have a negative
impact on the fetus' health. As for chemotherapy, they did not
detect any congenital malformations or obvious defects at birth.
Most of the babies were also born at full term and normal weight.
These findings indicate that cancer treatment may be compatible
with pregnancy. This is not to say that women who are undergoing
cancer treatment should go ahead and get pregnant. It only means
that women who are already pregnant when their cancer is
diagnosed need not have an abortion if their treatment is properly