Pregnancy has no impact on breast cancer survival

February 9th, 2009 - 4:53 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Feb 9 (ANI): Women who develop breast cancer during their pregnancy have no difference in rates of local recurrence, distant metastases, and overall survival as compared to other young women with the disease, according to a new study.

The largest single-institution study by researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, looked at pregnant breast cancer patients.

It was found that women with Pregnancy Associated Breast Cancer (PABC) were more likely to be diagnosed later with advanced stages of the disease and, thus, had necessary treatment delayed.

“Breast cancer in young women is a highly aggressive disease, and it’’s important that we study it in hopes of making a difference in terms of treatment. When we looked at our young breast cancer population, a relatively large percentage had disease affiliated with pregnancy. We thought it would be really instructive to review our data to determine how we can best serve these women,” said Dr. Beth Beadle, a radiation oncology resident at M. D. Anderson and the study’’s first author.

According to estimates, up to 3.8 percent of pregnancies are complicated by breast cancer, and approximately 10 percent of breast cancer patients under age 40 develop the disease during pregnancy.

However, Dr. George Perkins, associate professor in M. D. Anderson’’s Department of Radiation Oncology, said that with increase in the age for first and subsequent pregnancies, the figures would only continue to climb.

“Because we see care for large volume of patients who are young, as well as those who are young and pregnant, we wanted to see if there was something additive going on that is attributed to pregnancy, or if the response to treatment and behavior of the disease is a phenomenon of young age itself,” said Perkins.

The researchers reviewed the records of 652 breast cancer patients, within 35 years of age. Of those, 104 had PABC - 51 developed their cancer during their pregnancy and 53 developed the disease within one year post-pregnancy.

After comparing the PABC and the non-PABC cohorts, the researchers found no statistical difference between the 10-year rates of: locoregional recurrence, metastasis, or overall survival.

“What we did find, however, is that women with PABC presented with more advanced disease, both in the breast and lymph nodes. These women seem to have a significant delay in diagnosis, and their symptoms were not identified as breast cancer for an extended period of time - putting them at a disadvantage by withholding necessary treatment,” said Beadle.

Scientists said that it was important to note that there was no difference in the statistic by decade, reiterating there’’s still progress to be made in terms of diagnosing and treating the disease during pregnancy.

“The study also proves that there’’s a vital opportunity for physicians to focus on complete breast care during a patient’’s pregnancy, and should include cancer as a possible diagnosis. Persistent complaints should be monitored aggressively, with breast exams, imaging and biopsy, all being conducted as necessary, said Perkins.

The findings have been published in the online edition of the journal Cancer. (ANI)

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