What is Pregnancy Associated Breast Cancer?
October 23, 2020Pregnancy Associated Breast Cancer (or PABC) is a breast cancer diagnosis that occurs during pregnancy or within the first postpartum year.1 It accounts for roughly 10 percent of breast cancer cases among women under age 40, and researchers say it is becoming more common as more women wait until their 30s and 40s to have children.2
A Look at the Statistics
Although relatively rare, pregnancy associated breast cancer affects around 1 in 3,000 pregnant women and is the second most common malignancy affecting pregnancy, after melanoma.1-2 The average age of a woman with pregnancy associated breast cancer is 32 to 38, with only 6.5 percent of all cases occurring in women over age 40.1
Detection and Treatment
Diagnosing and treating breast cancer is complicated by pregnancy, as the goal is to remove or cure the cancer, if possible, while protecting the health of the baby. While there are no known cases of cancer spreading to the fetus, there have been instances in which cancer has been found in the placenta.3 For this reason, early detection is an important factor in successful treatment.
Detection usually occurs when the patient notices a mass or lump or other unusual changes to the breast; however, these signs may not always be present. A breast ultrasound, mammogram, or fine needle aspiration may be needed to get an accurate diagnosis.1 This is why it is important for women of reproductive age to be familiar with the way their breasts normally feel and look, and why mammograms are important for women age 40 and older, or for women 30 or older who are at higher risk of developing breast cancer.4
Treatment plans for pregnancy associated breast cancer can vary depending on several factors, including the stage of pregnancy at which the diagnosis occurs. Generally, a combination of surgical treatment, adjuvant chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy are prescribed by the patient’s cancer team.1
Most studies indicate the prognosis for pregnancy associated breast cancer to be about the same as that of non-pregnancy associated breast cancer. However, one study did find that women with PABC presented with a more advanced disease and larger tumors.1 This could be due to later detection. (Sometimes women who are pregnant attribute early breast cancer symptoms to similar symptoms of pregnancy, such as changes in their breasts.) These statistics underscore the vital importance of regular wellness exams and breast exams for women at higher risk of developing breast cancer.4
Getting a cancer diagnosis while pregnant can be extremely distressing, but remember, you are not alone. Use the resources below and contact a qualified therapist to help you navigate this difficult time. You can also ask your oncologist or primary care physician for referrals to therapists and support groups.
Young Survival Coalition – https://www.youngsurvival.org/connect
Treating Breast Cancer During Pregnancy – https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/treatment/treating-breast-cancer-during-pregnancy.html
These are just two of the millions of resources that can be found on the web. You can also contact your local city, county, or state health department for information and guidance.
Prenate® Vitamin Family
This post is sponsored by the Prenate® Vitamin Family, a line of prescription prenatal supplements designed to enhance preconception, prenatal, and postpartum nutrition in women. Talk with your doctor about how taking a daily prescription prenatal or postnatal vitamin could help support a healthy pregnancy and postpartum wellness.