Your Breast Cancer Survival Guide
New Help for Pregnant Women
In the past, expectant mothers who discovered they had breast cancer faced a wrenching choice: Save their own life or save their unborn child. No longer. New guidelines issued last December by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network advise that women can safely have either a mastectomy or a breast-conserving lumpectomy and begin chemotherapy as early as their second trimester. "In our studies we haven't seen any adverse effects on the babies that could be attributed to treatment. The kids are doing fine. The moms are doing fine," says Richard Theriault, DO, a breast cancer expert and oncologist at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. His work showed that the survival rate for pregnant women who follow the new treatment guidelines is 75 percent, about the same as for other women. Other research has shown that chemotherapy may affect a developing fetus in the second or third trimester, so women should discuss these new guidelines with their oncologist. Because radiation and estrogen therapy can injure the fetus, these treatments should be delayed until after the child is born.