Pregnant Women with Breast Cancer Do Not Have Worse Outcomes

Posted on March 31st, 2009 by

Although pregnancy may contribute to a delay in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, pregnant women with breast cancer do not appear to have worse outcomes than their non-pregnant counterparts, according to a study published in Cancer.1

Pregnancy-associated breast cancer (PABC) is defined as breast cancer that develops during or within one year after pregnancy. It is relatively rare, with approximately 10% of all breast cancer cases under age 40 occurring in pregnant women. However, some researchers have speculated that the incidence of PABC may increase as the average age at the time of pregnancy increases.

Some research has indicated that PABC has a worse outcome than other breast cancers; however, this could also be attributable to young age, since most women with PABC tend to be young and breast cancer in young women tends to have a worse prognosis.

Researchers from M. D. Anderson Cancer Center analyzed data from 652 women ages 35 and younger who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 1973 and 2006. The group included 104 women with PABC—51 who were diagnosed during their pregnancy and 53 who were diagnosed within the following year.

The researchers observed that the tumors in the pregnant women were more advanced upon diagnosis; however, this could be because the pregnancy masked symptoms, leading to a delayed diagnosis. The data indicated that the rates of overall survival, distant metastases, and locoregional recurrence were similar among women with PABC and those with non-PABC.

The researchers concluded that pregnancy in and of itself does not predict for worse outcomes in women with breast cancer; however, they stressed the importance of early diagnosis and treatment. This is a complex issue due to the perceived notion of endangering the fetus during treatment. Research will likely be ongoing to evaluate this issue. 

Reference:

1 Beadle BM, Woodward WA, Middleton LP, et al. The impact of pregnancy on breast cancer outcomes in women £35 years. Cancer. 2009; 115: 1174-1184.

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Tags: Breast Cancer

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