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Signs Of Breast Cancer During Pregnancy

Symptoms Of Angiosarcoma Of The Breast

Mastitis – Breast pain during lactation or pregnancy. Mastitis symptoms and treatment.

Another rare form of breast cancer, angiosarcoma forms inside the lymph and blood vessels. Only a biopsy may definitively diagnose this type of cancer. Angiosarcoma can cause changes to the skin of your breast, such as the development of purple-colored nodules that resemble a bruise. These nodules, if bumped or scratched, may bleed. Over time, these discolored areas may expand, making your skin appear swollen in that area. You may or may not have breast lumps with angiosarcoma. If you also have lymphedema, which is swelling caused by a buildup of lymphatic fluid, angiosarcoma may occur in the affected arm. Cancer treatment sometimes damages the lymph vessels, which may lead to lymphedema.

Can I Breastfeed During Cancer Treatment

Most doctors recommend that women who have just had babies and are about to be treated for breast cancer should stop breastfeeding. Many chemo, hormone, and targeted therapy drugs can enter breast milk and be passed on to the baby. Breastfeeding isn’t recommended if you are being treated with systemic drugs and sometimes shouldn’t be restarted for months after treatment has ended, Sometimes, if a woman has hormone-positive breast cancer, she might be given drugs to stop the production of breast milk.

If breast surgery is planned, stopping breastfeeding will help reduce blood flow to the breasts and make them smaller. This can help with the operation. It also helps reduce the risk of infection in the breast and can help avoid breast milk collecting in biopsy or surgery areas.

If you have questions, such as when it might be safe to start breastfeeding, talk with your health care team. If you plan to start breastfeeding after youve stopped for a while, plan ahead. Breastfeeding experts can give you extra help if you need it.

After Breast Cancer Has Been Diagnosed Tests Are Done To Find Out If Cancer Cells Have Spread Within The Breast Or To Other Parts Of The Body

The process used to find out if the cancer has spread within the breast or to other parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment.

Some procedures may expose the unborn baby to harmful radiation or dyes. These procedures are done only if absolutely necessary. Certain actions can be taken to expose the unborn baby to as little radiation as possible, such as the use of a lead-lined shield to cover the abdomen.

The following tests and procedures may be used to stage breast cancer during pregnancy:

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What If I Do Have Cancer Will I Have To Lose My Baby

First of all, abortion of the baby does not improve the mother’s chances of surviving the cancer.

Second, there is no evidence that breast cancer can harm the baby. What can harm the baby are some of the treatments for breast cancer — and these depend on how far advanced the cancer is. This is another reason why it is so important to detect these and other cancers early.

If the cancer is still in the early stages , the doctor will most likely recommend that you have surgery to remove either the suspicious lump or the affected breast . During the operation, the surgeon will examine the lymph nodes to see whether any are affected and will remove the lymph nodes where the cancer is most likely to have spread. If is it necessary to give chemotherapy, your doctor will usually wait until after the first trimester to reduce the chances that it will harm the baby.

If the cancer is more advanced , the situation can become very complicated. If radiation is needed to treat the cancer, it can be very hard to protect the baby. Additionally, these cancers usually require both surgery and chemotherapy, so the risk of harming the baby is much higher. There have been instances where the cancer is advanced to the point where any treatment is not likely to add more than a year or two to the woman’s life. In these cases, whether or not to undergo the treatment and risk harming the baby can be an agonizing decision for both the woman and her family.

What Are The Early Signs Of Breast Cancer

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Early cases of breast cancer normally do not have any symptoms. This is why it is important for women to undergo regular breast exams to detect breast cancer as early as possible.

If breast cancer has progressed, it could cause the following symptoms:

  • A hard or uneven breast lump that normally does not hurt.
  • Changes in the size, shape, or texture of the breast or nipple. Examples include dimpling, redness, or puckering in the skin.
  • Fluid leaking from the nipple. Fluid may be clear, yellow, green, or bloody.

Symptoms for breast cancer in men may include breast pain, tenderness, and breast lumps.

If a tumor has already begun to develop, it could cause obvious changes in the appearance and texture of the breast. A breast may become noticeably flattened or indented, which could indicate a tumor that is difficult to feel or see with the naked eye.

A breast could change in temperature, texture, contour, or size to indicate the development of advanced breast cancer. If a breast becomes reddish or puckered like the surface of an orange, it is important to see a doctor immediately.

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Symptoms Of Gestational Breast Cancer

  • A mass or lump, the most common symptom
  • Changes in size, shape, or appearance of the breast or nipple
  • Inverted nipple or nipple discharge
  • Skin changes on the nipple or breast
  • Swelling of part or all of the breast

Many of these signs are commonly associated with normal breast changes during pregnancy, so its easy to see how they can be overlooked.

How To Check For Breast Cancer When Pregnant

You might be wondering what you can do to catch the onset of cancer early enough to give you a good chance of beating cancer without endangering the health of your baby.

The best approach is to check your breasts and surrounding regions, particularly the underarms, daily. You can do this yourself or ask your partner to help you with hard-to-reach areas. If you see any signs of lumps in the tissue, then do not hesitate to bring it to your doctors attention.

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How Is Breast Cancer Diagnosed In Pregnant Women

The best thing you can do while pregnant is to see your obstetrician regularly. These doctor visits, called prenatal visits, are very important in keeping both you and your baby in the best possible health. During these visits, your obstetrician will perform a breast examination to check for suspicious breast changes.

It is also important to regularly perform breast exams on yourself. Your doctor or nurse can teach you how to do this properly.

If a suspicious lump is found, your doctor will likely ask you to get a mammogram or an ultrasound. As in all procedures that expose you to radiation when you are pregnant, the technicians will take extra care to shield your baby from radiation during the mammogram.

If the lump is still suspicious after these tests, the doctor will usually perform a biopsy. In fact, your doctor will often recommend that you get a biopsy even if the initial tests come back negative. During the biopsy, a small sample of the suspicious tissue will be removed with a needle or by making a small cut. This sample is then thoroughly examined using a microscope and other methods to detect any cancer cells.

Can Cancer Hurt Your Baby

Early Signs of Breast Cancer

We need more research into what cancer could mean for the health of your baby. But studies so far suggest that cancer in pregnant women seldom affects their babies.

It happens very rarely, but pregnant women have passed a few types of cancers to their babies:

After delivery, doctors will watch closely to see if your baby needs cancer treatment.

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Chemotherapy And Other Medications

Chemotherapy involves using toxic substances to kill the cancer in your body.

Chemo and other anticancer drugs can harm the fetus, cause birth defects, or lead to miscarriage especially if theyre used during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Some chemotherapies and other cancer-fighting drugs can safely be given during the second and third trimesters.

In Breast Cancer Stage Is Based On The Size And Location Of The Primary Tumor The Spread Of Cancer To Nearby Lymph Nodes Or Other Parts Of The Body Tumor Grade And Whether Certain Biomarkers Are Present

To plan the best treatment and understand your prognosis, it is important to know the breast cancer stage.

There are 3 types of breast cancer stage groups:

  • Clinical Prognostic Stage is used first to assign a stage for all patients based on health history, physical exam, imaging tests , and biopsies. The Clinical Prognostic Stage is described by the TNM system, tumor grade, and biomarker status . In clinical staging, mammography or ultrasound is used to check the lymph nodes for signs of cancer.
  • Pathological Prognostic Stage is then used for patients who have surgery as their first treatment. The Pathological Prognostic Stage is based on all clinical information, biomarker status, and laboratory test results from breast tissue and lymph nodes removed during surgery.
  • Anatomic Stage is based on the size and the spread of cancer as described by the TNM system. The Anatomic Stage is used in parts of the world where biomarker testing is not available. It is not used in the United States.

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Treatment During Pregnancy And After The Birth

Effective breast cancer treatment can be given during pregnancy and your team will discuss your options.

Generally, the treatment youre offered will depend on the type and extent of your breast cancer, your individual situation and how far you are into your pregnancy.

The aim will be to give you the most effective treatment for your breast cancer while keeping your baby safe.

If youre near the end of your pregnancy, your treatment team may delay treatment until after the birth.

Pregnancy After Breast Cancer Treatment

Can Itchy Breast be a Sign of Breast Cancer?

All premenopausal women diagnosed with breast cancer should be counseled regarding future fertility and contraceptive options. Regardless of fertility desires, it is imperative to discuss contraceptive options that are safe to use with a history of breast cancer. In general, hormonal therapies should be avoided intrauterine devices or barrier methods are safe options. As most recurrences of breast cancer happen within 2 years of diagnosis, most people recommend waiting at least 2 years from remission prior to conceiving.6 Chemotherapy agents can also cause infertility. If a patient desires future fertility, referral to a fertility specialist to discuss egg or embryo freezing would be prudent.

If patients do desire to preserve fertility, options include ovarian or embryo cryopreservation. Embryo cryopreservation can be performed with natural cycle in vitro fertilization to avoid use of ovulation induction. Tamoxifen and letrozole have emerged as possible options for ovulation induction in patients with breast cancer.18 Ovarian cryopreservation can be an option for patients without a current partner who desire to preserve fertility however, current studies have not shown great success.

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Gestational Breast Cancer Symptoms

A mass or lump is the most common sign of breast cancer. Other signs include a change in the size, shape, or appearance of the breast or nipple, swelling of part or all of the breast, nipple discharge, inverted nipple, and skin changes on the breast or nipple. Many of these signs occur normally during pregnancy, so it is easy for them to be overlooked.

Breast Cancer & Pregnancy: Your Treatment Options At Dignity Health Southern California

Cancer is a frightening word, especially during pregnancy. Doctors at Dignity Health Southern California understand that breast cancer treatment during pregnancy is complicated both physically and emotionally. Because of the risk of radiation exposure to the baby, doctors typically do not use mammograms to screen for cancer during pregnancy. Your treatment options will depend on how far along the pregnancy is and the stage of the breast cancer. Complete surgical removal of the breast, mastectomy, is the main treatment during pregnancy. Breast-conserving surgeries such as lumpectomy are usually not an option because they require follow up treatment with radiation. Many chemotherapy options are considered safe from the second trimester until the 35th week of pregnancy. Targeted therapies, hormone therapy, and radiation therapy are not safe treatment options during pregnancy. Are you pregnant and concerned about your risk of breast cancer? Talk to your doctor today to receive the care you need and find peace of mind. Dignity Health offers specialized screening and treatment for breast cancer during pregnancy in Southern California.

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There Are Three Ways That Cancer Spreads In The Body

Cancer can spread through tissue, the lymph system, and the blood:

  • Tissue. The cancer spreads from where it began by growing into nearby areas.
  • Lymph system. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the lymph system. The cancer travels through the lymph vessels to other parts of the body.
  • Blood. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the blood. The cancer travels through the blood vessels to other parts of the body.

How Do You Treat Breast Cancer During Pregnancy

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Breast cancer per se does not affect the baby. Breast cancer during pregnancy should be treated early to prevent its spread. At the same time, treatment should be modified from normal breast cancer guidelines to prevent any harm to the fetus. Most of the available guidelines are based on limited experience with the condition. The benefits and risks of each treatment should be explained to the patient so that she can take part in the decision-making process.

Treatment of breast cancer during pregnancy depends on the:

  • Stage of Cancer: Staging of cancer is necessary to understand the extent of cancer, to assess the treatment options and the likely outcome for the patient. A cancer at a later stage indicates that cancer has spread and the outlook may not be favorable for the woman
  • Duration of the Pregnancy: Treatment of breast cancer that is discovered during late pregnancy may be postponed for a short duration till the delivery of the baby. Breast cancers discovered early in pregnancy may require some tough decisions
  • Overall health of the patient and the baby
  • Preference of the woman


Breast cancer during pregnancy is usually treated with surgery through the procedure of modified radical mastectomy. The surgery removes the entire affected breast along with draining lymph nodes, lining of chest wall muscles and sometimes some of the chest wall muscles. Risks of surgery include miscarriage of the baby or preterm delivery.


Hormonal Therapy

Targeted Therapy

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What Are The Stages Of Breast Cancer

How will you know how aggressive your cancer is? Your doctors will determine what stage breast cancer you have.

Stage describes how big the tumor is, if it has spread and where it has spread. Staging is very important for pregnant women with breast cancer, because their cancers tend to be found at a more advanced stage when the tumor is likely to be bigger and to have spread beyond the breast.

Problem is, the best way to determine what stage cancer you have is through imaging studies , which are usually off-limits when youre pregnant. Luckily, standard methods for giving imaging scans can be adjusted so the fetus is exposed to less radiation.

For instance, an MRI is safe during pregnancy as long as contrast dye isnt used. Chest x-rays use only a small amount of radiation and are thought to be safe for pregnant women when the belly is adequately shielded.

The stages start with 0 and progress to IV:

Is Anesthesia Safe During Pregnancy

Surgery for breast cancer generally carries little risk to the baby. But there are certain times in pregnancy when anesthesia may be risky for the baby.

Your surgeon and anesthesiologist, along with a high-risk obstetrician , will need to work together to decide the best time during pregnancy to operate. If the surgery is done later in the pregnancy, your obstetrician may be there just in case there are any problems with the baby during surgery. Together, your doctors will decide which anesthesia drugs and techniques are the safest for both you and the baby.

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Can Breast Cancer Spread To The Baby

Breast cancer has never been found to spread from the mother to the fetus. But in a few rare cases, the cancer has reached the placenta . This could affect the amount of nutrition the fetus gets from the mother.

For answers to some common questions about pregnancy after having had breast cancer, see Pregnancy After Breast Cancer.

How Is Breast Cancer Detected During Pregnancy

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Because its difficult to detect breast cancer in moms-to-be thanks to the normal tenderness and swelling that comes with being pregnant, its important to watch for other signs , such as dimpling or puckering of the skin, bloody fluid from the nipple, scaly skin on the breast and any unusual thickening in one area of the breast.

If you have any of these signs, its important to talk to your doctor. Delayed diagnosis remains one of the biggest problems with breast cancer in pregnancy, precisely because its so difficult to differentiate normal pregnancy breast changes from changes in the breasts that might be due to cancer.

If your doctor notices any concerning lumps or abnormalities, she will likely recommend further testing. This may include:

  • A mammogram, which can be used safely during pregnancy since the amount of radiation required is small and focused on the breasts
  • An ultrasound of the breasts
  • A biopsy, when cells from the lump are removed via a long needle and then checked under a microscope for signs of cancer
  • If cancer is found, your doctor and oncologist will use these test results as well as others to determine how quickly the cancer may grow or spread through the body.

If youre diagnosed with breast cancer during pregnancy, youll likely be shocked and overwhelmed when you hear the news, worried about your health and that of your baby-to-be, and concerned about what lies ahead.

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