Breast cancer in pregnancy: woman heals and the baby is born healthy

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Marie-Ange Demory
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The onset of breast cancer during pregnancy is a rare event, accounting for approximately 2% of all breast cancers. And, even more rare, is the outcome that - after this diagnosis - had the case of a thirty-six year old from Modena, that is her complete recovery from malignant carcinoma in both breasts by carrying the pregnancy to term and giving birth to her perfectly healthy baby.



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Continue the pregnancy or not?

A diagnosis of breast cancer in pregnancy represents a difficult choice for a woman: to save her life or put it at risk to deliver the baby? In Modena, a young woman found herself faced with this dilemma. The future mother was treated by the Modena Breast Unit and managed to recover without giving up the baby.



"After the difficult diagnosis we studied a therapeutic plan to treat the mother without compromising the health of the unborn child - explains Giovanni Tazzioli, head of Breast Cancer Surgery of the University Hospital of Modena and of the Diagnostic Therapeutic Path for the treatment of breast cancer. - we always worked as a team deciding to treat the patient for about 12 weeks with a particular chemotherapy protocol designed to minimize the risk of harm to the unborn child ".

"The therapy lasted about two and a half months - says Dr. Laura Cortesi, oncologist of the Breast Unit - to reduce the size of the two nodules, in order to optimize the effect of the surgery".

"At the end of the most suitable treatment for the mother and safe for the child, we decided to operate her - continues Tazzioli - reserving the second part of the therapy, harmful to the fetus, for the post-partum period." In parallel, the young woman was constantly monitored with obstetric visits and ultrasound scans by Dr. Francesca Monari, gynecologist of the Obstetrics Service of the Polyclinic.

New technique: excision of sentinel lymph nodes through fluorescence

In carrying out the intervention, prof. Tazzioli and his team of breast surgeons have used a new technique for the removal of sentinel lymph nodes, through fluorescence, to totally avoid even the slightest exposure to the radioisotope of scintigraphy, thus protecting the mother and child as much as possible.
Before starting with the second, more invasive phase of therapy, it was assessed whether it was necessary to deliver the baby.



The baby was then born in the 34th week of pregnancy, healthy and of a good weight (2400 grams), with a caesarean section.


After only 12 days, the young mother resumed chemotherapy associated with a biological treatment that will continue for a year, with excellent tolerance to treatments and complete regression of the oncological disease.

Certainly fundamental in this rare story with a happy ending was also the positivity and psychological attitude of the patient, who never let herself be disheartened by the situation, leaving even the doctors who followed her amazed and pleasantly impressed.


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