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Diagnosing & Treating Breast Cancer During Pregnancy in Southern California


Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in pregnant women, but it’s still very rare. Only about one in 3,000 women will develop breast cancer while pregnant. It is also called pregnancy-associated breast cancer or gestational breast cancer. 

During pregnancy, your breasts undergo normal changes in sensitivity, size, and texture, which can make it hard to find breast cancer. As a result, these cancers are often quite advanced by the time they are diagnosed. 

At Dignity Health Southern California hospitals, with locations in Long Beach, Northridge, Downtown LA, Glendale, and San Bernardino, our doctors and staff offer advanced cancer care technology with a healing touch — considering the needs and well-being of both mother and baby. Expect compassion and respect while we treat your breast cancer as aggressively and safely as possible. Find a Doctor who specializes in breast cancer during pregnancy in Southern California today.

What Causes Pregnancy-Associated Breast Cancer?

Doctors don’t know exactly why breast cancer happens during pregnancy, but the pregnancy itself is not the cause. 

Women who have had radiation therapy to the chest or have a family history of breast cancer are more likely to develop breast cancer than the general population. Also, as women age their risk of developing breast cancer increases. Certain gene mutations can also increase the risk. 

Symptoms of Gestational Breast Cancer

Signs and symptoms of breast cancer during pregnancy include:

  • A mass or lump, the most common symptom
  • Changes in size, shape, or appearance of the breast or nipple
  • Inverted nipple or nipple discharge
  • Skin changes on the nipple or breast 
  • Swelling of part or all of the breast

Many of these signs are commonly associated with normal breast changes during pregnancy, so it’s easy to see how they can be overlooked. 

Breast Cancer & Pregnancy: Your Treatment Options at Dignity Health Southern California

Cancer is a frightening word, especially during pregnancy. Doctors at Dignity Health Southern California understand that breast cancer treatment during pregnancy is complicated — both physically and emotionally. 

Because of the risk of radiation exposure to the baby, doctors typically do not use mammograms to screen for cancer during pregnancy. Your treatment options will depend on how far along the pregnancy is and the stage of the breast cancer

Complete surgical removal of the breast, mastectomy, is the main treatment during pregnancy. Breast-conserving surgeries such as lumpectomy are usually not an option because they require follow up treatment with radiation. Many chemotherapy options are considered safe from the second trimester until the 35th week of pregnancy. Targeted therapies, hormone therapy, and radiation therapy are not safe treatment options during pregnancy.

Are you pregnant and concerned about your risk of breast cancer? Talk to your doctor today to receive the care you need and find peace of mind.

Dignity Health offers specialized screening and treatment for breast cancer during pregnancy in Southern California.