Research shows women with cancer can have healthy babies

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MOST women treated for breast cancer during pregnancy or women who become pregnant after treatment for the disease have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies, experts have said.

Breast cancer – the most common cancer in women, affecting around 50,000 of them in the UK each year – is rare in younger females but increasing numbers of young women who have been treated for it are now going on to have babies, according to The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).

Treatment success rates in the UK are good and are continually improving, with five-year survival rates currently around 80 per cent for the under-50s age group, the RCOG said.

On rare occasions, breast cancer is diagnosed during pregnancy.

New patient information published by the RCOG outlines details for women who are pregnant and have been diagnosed 
with breast cancer or who have recovered and are planning a family.

For women diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant, treatment will usually begin straight away and will be offered according to the type and extent of the cancer and a multidisciplinary team will discuss all available treatment options.

These include surgery to remove the lump or the affected breast. Surgery can be carried out at any stage in pregnancy, the RCOG said.

Chemotherapy is not given during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy as it may cause abnormalities in the baby. After that, it is safe. Radiotherapy is not usually offered as a treatment option until after the birth.

Two commonly used drugs – tamoxifen and herceptin – are often given after the initial treatment to reduce the chance of the cancer recurring.