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What to Do If You Find a Lump During Pregnancy

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When you're expecting a little one, your breasts go through a number of changes due to increased hormones. Because of swollen milk ducts, a lot of women experience breast lumps, making it harder for women to realize if they should go to their obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN).

"Patients and their doctors have cancer treatment considerations that don't hurt the child or mother."

Remember, it's incredibly uncommon for women under 35 years old to develop breast cancer, the American Pregnancy Association noted. Breast cancer affects 1 in 3,000 pregnant women, according to the American Cancer Society. While it is rare, it is often detected late in pregnancy or after the child is already born, resulting in the breast cancer being at a late stage. In fact, CNN reported that until recently, many doctors suggested their pregnant patients consider two options: wait until the baby is born to begin cancer drugs due to worries that the child could be negatively impacted by the treatment, or to terminate the baby and start the mother's health care regime. Now, patients and their doctors have cancer treatment considerations that don't hurt the child or mother.

Here's what you should do if you find an odd lump in your breasts during pregnancy.

Talk to your OB/GYN

This should always be your first step to determining what the lump you've noticed is. Your OB/GYN is a specialist when it comes to pregnancy, and you should lay all of your concerns out on the table whenever they pop up.

According to nonprofit organization Breastcancer.org, most lumps aren't breast cancer. Dr. Marisa Weiss, Breastcancer.org founder and president, wrote in an op-ed for ABC News that the majority of lumps are caused by blocked breast ducts. But no pregnant woman should ever wait to talk to their physician if they feel a lump needs to be checked. Delaying diagnosis if breast cancer is found can have negative results. 

Pregnant women in a pregnancy group.Pregnant women who are concerned about their breast lumps have options.

Even if your OB/GYN is unconcerned, they will most likely continue to monitor your breast lumps in case one or two grow. This exact situation happened to Jessica Denton, CNN reported, when Denton's physician determined that an expanding breast lump was malignant through a needle biopsy when she was five months pregnant with her first child. Through numerous tests that looked for the lump's speed of progression and its size, her doctors determined that the best option was to start chemotherapy and to have a mastectomy after the delivery. Treatment options depend on numerous factors, and not every doctor may consider chemotherapy right away. 

Denton's daughter was born, and she told CNN she felt triumphant. "I thought: Take that, cancer. You tried your best, but I won: I have her."

"Women should conduct a self-examination of their breasts every four to five weeks of their pregnancy."

The American Pregnancy Association noted that women should conduct a self-examination of their breasts every four to five weeks of their pregnancy to monitor any changes. If your doctor does detect a tumor that concerns them, it may actually be benign. According to Healthline, sometimes women can't feel a fibroadenoma tumor, which is noncancerous, but when they can be detected, they can move under the skin. This type of tumor still requires treatment, however, making it just important for women with these lumps to get checked out.

How your OB/GYN can detect if it's cancer

You might not have to receive a mammogram to determine if your lump is cancer (even though the American Cancer Society says the service is safe during pregnancy). You, your partner, and your doctor have multiple options, including these three common ones:

    An ultrasound: Ultrasound machines are made to safely examine people's internal organs, and this is often an accurate way to examine a lump, according to the American Cancer Society. However, detecting a lump and determining what it is isn't often possible with this procedure, so your doctor may utilize another method.

    A biopsy: Actually removing a piece of affected tissue allows doctors to examine the lump up close and personal. The American Cancer Society said a needle biopsy, where a small incision is made with a needle to remove a piece of tissue, and a surgical biopsy, which involves general anesthesia.

    An MRI: This type of procedure doesn't involve cuts or needles, but it can still detect what's going on in your body. If your doctor does encourage you to have a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, know that it is still safe, and it can even detect issues in other parts of your body.

Detecting a lump and having your physician determine it's cancer is an incredibly scary experience for any woman. Know that there are resources out there, such as the American Cancer Society and the American Pregnancy Association, that can help.

 
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