High Rate of Women Spot Breast Cancer While Pregnant

According to a recent study, one in 10 women discover the first signs of breast cancer during pregnancy—but there might still not be enough diagnoses happening.

High Rate of Women Spot Breast Cancer While Pregnant Poznyakov/Shutterstock

A whopping one in ten women with breast cancer spot the first signs of the disease during pregnancy, according to a recent study.

Breast Cancer Care in the U.K. talked to nearly 500 women who had breast cancer and discovered that 10 percent of them first found signs of the cancer while they were pregnant or breastfeeding.

The women surveyed were all under 45 years of age, and cases of the disease striking women in this age range are on the rise—African American women and those who have gene mutations like BRCA1 and BRCA2 are at greater risk for developing breast cancer before they turn 45.

Real consequences

Pete Wallthrop lost his wife to breast cancer—she was diagnosed while carrying their second child and passed away at age 41.

He felt that women in similar situations aren't often dealing with healthcare practitioners who are aware that women can develop cancer during pregnancy. "Women who have spotted symptoms of cancer are told by doctors that changes in their body are because of pregnancy when in fact that is not the case," he told the Manchester Evening News. "So I think doctors need to be more well-informed."

Kate Howard, a 34-year-old mother of two, was also diagnosed with breast cancer during pregnancy. "I was totally overjoyed to find out I was pregnant," she said, according to Breast Cancer Care. "Then only a few days later I was told the small bump I'd found on my breast was breast cancer. I worried I wouldn't be able to carry on with my pregnancy. These early days were such a tough time. I was so relieved I was able to have a mastectomy when 13 weeks along. But it wasn't easy. Recovering from surgery I had to spend precious time apart from our three-year-old son Oliver."

What to do

Our advice? Take every precaution to be screened for cancer if you feel any symptoms at all. They might be chalked up to your body's natural change during pregnancy, but unfortunately, a cancer diagnosis is a possibility, even if you are young. If you've been diagnosed, speak to your doctor about support groups geared towards young cancer patients.