Breast Centers And Pregnancy
Breast centers are medical clinics which provide screening and treatment for conditions affecting the breasts, including breast cancer. Some breast centers carry out not only the testing procedures but also treatments (chemotherapy, radiotherapy, etc.) and even restorative surgery if a woman has had part or all of her breast removed. Other breast centers simply do the testing, and then refer the patient to a hospital oncology department for treatment. Breast centers may offer counseling and psychological support for breast cancer patients as well as breast cancer screening and treatment.
Breast Cancer And Pregnancy
Due to hormone fluctuations during pregnancy, the breasts go through a lot of physical changes. They often become bigger and may feel firmer and full of lumps and bumps in the breast tissue. Understandably, these lumps may cause a pregnant woman some alarm. The fact is that the majority of breast lumps detected during pregnancy turn out not to be cancer-related. However, that does not mean that you can afford to wait until after you've given birth or finished breastfeeding to have your lump checked out - you must get it done right away. If you have a lump that wasn't there before, whether you're pregnant or not, see your healthcare provider as soon as you can.
Breast Cancer Screening And Pregnancy
There are some concerns about the safety of breast cancer screening and pregnancy - so let's take a look at some of the different screening techniques and their possible effects on pregnant women and their fetuses. (It can be more difficult to detect breast cancer in a pregnant patient than in a non-pregnant patient, therefore pregnant women who find breast lumps may have to undergo several different screening procedures).
A breast mammogram (basically a low dose breast x-ray) is safe during pregnancy as long as the woman wears a lead shield over her belly to prevent any possible radiation scatter penetrating the area in which the fetus is developing. The lead shield usually comes in the form of an apron. Unfortunately, mammography is not the most effective way of detecting breast cancer during pregnancy, because of the all the changes (mentioned above) in the breast tissue. Digital mammography is a recent development which appears to produce more accurate images of the breast, although the technique still involves the use of x-rays.
Magnetic resonance imaging is a technique similar to an ultrasound exam, which is used to "look inside" the breasts. Usually, a breast MRI would be carried out only after a mammogram had shown that a breast lump is present, and that it looks like it may be cancerous. This is because, in the past, doctors considered MRI unsafe during pregnancy. Now the technique is used when it seems that the benefits of it (i.e. detecting what seems to be a cancerous lump) outweigh the possible risks.
The needle biopsy test for breast cancer involves inserting a needle into the breast lump and removing a small amount of tissue. A pathologist examines the tissue under a microscope to determine whether or not any cancer cells are present. This testing procedure is safe for both pregnant and breastfeeding women. Studies suggest that this may be one of the most accurate breast cancer screening methods available to pregnant women, providing that the pathologist is experienced enough to detect the difference between breast cells that are dividing rapidly because of pregnancy, and cancer cells which also divide rapidly.
Ultrasounds exams are very safe during pregnancy (after all, that's the method we use to look at the fetus). An ultrasound exam on the breasts will be able to tell the difference between a breast lump that's filled with fluid, and a solid breast lump. Solid breast lumps are the ones that may be cancerous. Unfortunately, an ultrasound exam can't tell the difference between a solid lump that is cancerous and one that isn't.