Breast Cancer During Pregnancy Diagnosed Late

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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A study shows that breast cancer that occurs during pregnancy or within one year after pregnancy is usually diagnosed late, previously associated with poorer outcomes. The result has lead researchers to clarify outcomes associated with pregnancy induced breast cancer in younger women.

Pregnancy induced breast cancer (PABC) affects ten percent of women under age 40. Diagnosis of breast cancer during pregnancy is difficult, causing delays in treatment for women affected. By the time breast cancer is diagnosed, women are in more advanced stages of the disease.

Texas researcher Beth Beadle, M.D., a radiation oncology resident at M. D. Anderson says, "Breast cancer in young women is a highly aggressive disease, and it's important that we study it in hopes of making a difference in terms of treatment." Pregnancy induced breast cancer usually appears within one year following pregnancy in younger women.

Pregnancy induced breast cancer is rare, and according to the authors, poses problems to clinicians. Symptoms should be thoroughly investigated and aggressively treated to improve survival.

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Previous studies have shown that breast cancer following pregnancy is associated with poorer survival. Texas A&M researcher looked at 668 breast cancers in 652 patients aged 35 years or younger. They found 104 pregnancy associated breast cancers. Fifty-one developed during pregnancy and 53 within a year of pregnancy.

George Perkins who, contributed to the study along with Dr. Beadle said, "Because we see care for large volume of patients who are young, as well as those who are young and pregnant, we wanted to see if there was something additive going on that is attributed to pregnancy, or if the response to treatment and behavior of the disease is a phenomenon of young age itself."

The researchers found no difference in ten-year survival rates when compared to other women who develop breast cancer. Treatment during pregnancy provided the best outcomes.

The authors conclude, "Balancing the health of mother and child is… paramount; new evidence suggests that both can be prioritized and successful outcomes managed for both."

The study shows that careful screening and early intervention for pregnancy induced breast cancer is important. Breast cancer that occurs during or within one year of pregnancy poses challenges, but survival rates are fortunately the same as other women who develop breast cancer, even with treatment delays.

Source: Article: "The impact of pregnancy on breast cancer outcomes in women >35 years old." Beth M. Beadle, Wendy A. Woodward, Lavinia P. Middleton, Welela Tereffe, Eric A. Strom, Jennifer K. Litton, Funda Meric-Bernstam, Richard L. Theriault, Thomas A. Buchholz, and George H. Perkins. CANCER; Published Online: February 09, 2009 (DOI: 10.1002/cncr.24165); Print Issue Date: March 15, 2009.

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