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Pregnancy-associated breast cancer is more difficult to diagnose, making treatment more complicated and minimizing the chance of positive outcomes for patients.

Pregnancy-associated breast cancer (PABC) is a distinction given to patients diagnosed during pregnancy or less than one year postpartum. Although cancer’s co-occurrence with pregnancy is relatively rare, PABC is one of the most common types of malignancies seen in pregnancy. 

Patients and clinicians may overlook the signs of PABC because lump-like nodes in the breast can be caused by pregnancy-related hormonal changes. When diagnosed during pregnancy, devising a treatment plan is complicated because the mother and the fetus’s health must both be considered. 

A recent study of PABC patients in Singapore sought to determine whether their cancer presentation and clinical outcomes were different from those of non-PABC patients. This sample included pregnant women between the ages of 25 and 43, and around half of the patients were diagnosed with breast cancer during pregnancy. 

Patients with PABC were diagnosed at a younger age than non-PABC patients, contributing to their higher-risk status among breast cancer patients. Additionally, tumor presentation was more likely to be multicentric and multifocal, higher grade, and higher stage in PABC than non-PABC. PABC tumors were more often hormone receptor negative, which has important implications for treatment options. The repercussions of these tumor characteristics can be seen in the survival rate and disease-free survival, both of which were worse in PABC patients. 

Pregnant women often face distinct health risks from the general population, and special care must be taken when treating diseases. This research shows poorer outcomes for PABC, which may be due to delayed diagnosis or inherent susceptibility as patients tended to be younger at diagnosis. Increased awareness and preparedness among healthcare specialists may help improve outcomes by facilitating timely diagnosis. 

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Tan, Q. T., Alcantara, V. S., Sultana, R., Loh, K. W., Go, A. L., & Wong, F. Y. (2023). Pregnancy-associated breast cancer: a multicenter study comparing clinicopathological factors, diagnosis and treatment outcomes with non-pregnant patients. Breast Cancer Res Treat. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10549-022-06855-2