It is not a regular occurrence, and the cases have been less in number, but there are certain times where a mother-to-be is diagnosed with breast cancer. The pregnancy plays no role in the cause of the disease and cannot be termed as a reason for cancer to occur. However, it does lead to exponential growth of the disease. Due to hormonal changes within the body, cancer can spread faster throughout the body and becomes difficult to contain to one part. The spread of the disease is what makes it fatal, and moms-to-be are gravely at risk because the symptoms and warning signs are difficult to spot.
A common occurrence during pregnancy is the thickening of breasts. This happens due to the increased levels of progesterone produced by the body and the growth of milk ducts. Due to the thickening of breasts, it becomes difficult for moms-to-be to identify tiny lumps. Lumps are usually the first symptom of cancer, and since it is difficult to spot them, cancer grows to an advanced degree before it is diagnosed.
This is why breast exams are recommended strongly throughout the pregnancy. The presence of any and all lumps should be consulted with a doctor.
The first and foremost thing to do while during pregnancy is to schedule regular check-ups with your doctor. Such visits can be scheduled once or twice a month. They're called 'pre-natal' visits. These are heath check-us that ensure you and your baby are in the best possible condition. As a part of these tests, doctors check the breasts for unnatural changes. This is also known as self-examination.
You can carry out self-examinations at home. A self-examination can be conducted in the following way:
The primary step would be to look for any significant changes in the size, shape, and symmetry of the breasts. Any swelling or significant enlargement should be considered a red flag and you should consult your doctor about it.
The second part of self-examination can be carried out in the shower. It is recommended that you use soap that smoothens your skin. By applying light pressure near the surface, check to feel if there any lumps. After this, apply firm pressure to explore the deeper, hidden tissue and check for any lumps in the same area. In case you find any lumps, immediately contact your doctor and consult them regarding the same.
The third part of the examination is carried out by squeezing each nipple gently and noticing if there any discharge around the area. You should simultaneously check if there is any change in the size, shape, and symmetry. In care of confusion and doubts over the results, your doctor can carry out the examination themselves.
The American Associations states that up to 90% of lumps are not cancerous. It also states that up to 70% of breast cancer cases detected in the first stage are not fatal. Hence, it does not mean that lumps directly mean you are suffering from cancer, however, you should consult the doctor immediately.
Regular mammograms help detect cancer at its earliest stage, even before physical symptoms develop. Through an analysis of research results, it has been found that moms-to-be who go through mammograms can eradicate cancer at its initial stage thereby ensuring good health for themselves and the child.
By testing yourself through a mammogram, you can detect irregular enlargement at its smallest state. The invasive procedure works on the deep tissue and is able to detect breast lumps up to two years before self-examination can.
Going through a mammogram test is considered to be safe for moms-to-be, however, they may not accurately predict lumps due to the increased density of the breasts. You may want to consider three-dimensional mammograms.
In the event that a suspicious lump is found, doctors carry out a biopsy. They test on a minute sample of the tissue and it is checked under the observation of a medical microscope to detect cancerous cells.
Abortion is not a viable solution as ending the baby's life does not help women to beat breast cancer and there is no concrete evidence that that baby is endangered.
Surgery is a viable option and is generally considered safe during any trimester. In general, surgery is safe during any trimester of pregnancy. Removing the cancerous lump (lumpectomy) or the whole breast (mastectomy) is recommended. Chemotherapy is recommended after birth because it can harm the baby.
We hope our recommendations help you get some clarity about the process.
Make sure you do your research and visit a doctor despite all the research.