How are pregnant women treated for breast cancer?

In general, treatment recommendations depend upon how long the woman has been pregnant.
Radiation therapy during pregnancy is known to increase the risk of birth defects, so it is not recommended for pregnant women with breast cancer. For this reason, breast-conserving therapy (lumpectomy with radiation therapy) is only an option if treatment can wait until it is safe to deliver the baby. However, breast biopsy procedures and even modified radical mastectomy are safe for the mother and fetus.
For a long time it was assumed that chemotherapy was dangerous to the fetus. However, several recent studies have found that using certain chemotherapy drugs during the second and third trimesters (the fourth to ninth months) does not increase the risk of birth defects. Because of concern about the potential damage to the fetus, the safety of chemotherapy during the first trimester (the first 3 months) of pregnancy has not been studied.
Hormone therapy may affect the fetus and should not be started until after the patient has given birth.
For more information, see the American Cancer Society document, Pregnancy and Breast Cancer, available at or by calling 1-800-ACS-2345.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.