Myths About Breast Cancer and Pregnancy

Just a few years ago, pregnant cancer patients had to choose between ending their pregnancy or delaying their own cancer treatment until after the birth. Not anymore. Now, patients and their doctors often choose to treat cancer immediately, while monitoring the growth of the fetus.

Myth: Continuing a pregnancy worsens the odds of survival. Reality: Patients who maintain their pregnancies have the same five-year survival rate as women who terminate them.

Myth: Pregnancy accelerates the cancer. Reality: Most breast cancers in premenopausal women are not estrogen-or progesterone-linked, so pregnancy-related hormone surges do not feed the tumor.

Myth: Chemotherapy causes birth defects. Reality: Small-scale studies show that certain chemo drugs, if taken after the first trimester, do not cause birth defects.

Myth: Pregnancy worsens the side effects of chemo. Reality: For reasons doctors don't understand, most pregnant women on chemo have less nausea and vomiting than non-pregnant patients.

Source: Dr. Richard Theriault and Dr. Karin Gwyn of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

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