If breast cancer statistics weren't scary enough for women, add this one to the pile. Estimates say cancer occurs about once in every 1,000 pregnancies, and one in 3,000 women will have breast cancer. And until recently, that meant women had to make a tough choice: their life or that of their baby.
But a story out of Minnesota will change everything you ever knew about breast cancer treatment. Lisa Bender is a brand new mother to Alice Virginia. And she's been fighting breast cancer since she found a lump at 11 weeks pregnant; thanks to her doctors, she's got it both ways -- pregnancy and her health.
Doctors did surgery and gave Bender four doses of chemotherapy during her pregnancy to slow the growth of her cancer (stage 2 when it was discovered), then took a break to allow her daughter to grow. Now that Alice has been born, she's had to give up on breastfeeding as she's gone back into treatment for her cancer.
She's joined a small number of moms who underwent treatment during pregnancy and have come out on the other side. Studies even show they've got significantly better outcomes than their non-pregnant counterparts receiving breast cancer treatments when they allow for some treatment during gestation. They were more likely to make the five-year mark cancer free.
Just -- if not more -- important from a mother's perspective? Their babies were likely to see little to no effect from the treatment. In a study released last year, scientists determined the babies of moms who underwent chemo during pregnancy were are not significantly more likely to have reduced birth weights or adverse events (such as birth defects) than babies who were never exposed to the chemicals.
That includes Lisa Bender's little girl, who was born a healthy 7 pounds, 7 ounces. Doctors are confident she'll have a mom around for a good long time to come thanks to the upcoming treatments. It's a hearty helping of hope for women everywhere, and Bender's case is also a good warning for the rest of us.
Breast cancer can be extremely tough to diagnose in women who are pregnant or nursing because the breasts are naturally swollen and tender. Small lumps are harder to detect, and there are generally delays in diagnosis because of it. Don't give up your self exams simply because your breasts are sore or because you're nursing or pregnant. If you're pregnant and in the doctor's office often for pre-natal checkups, ASK your doctor to take a feel -- that's what he/she is THERE for.
Do you know a mom who discovered her breast cancer while pregnant?
Image via pfala/Flickr