Research Focused On Postpartum Breast Cancer

I had never heard of pregnancy-associated breast cancer (PBAC) until I read this article in USA Today.

Turns out, much focus is on this cancer, diagnosed during or after pregnancy, which can have extremely aggressive characteristics.  A search of the internet shows a growing dialogue.

According to USA Today:

...almost one-third of the 25,000 (breast cancer) cases diagnosed in women under age 45 fall into the category of postpartum breast cancer, also called pregnancy-associated breast cancer, says Pepper Schedin, a professor at the University of Colorado in Denver.

For reasons doctors don't completely understand, a woman's risk of breast cancer actually goes up in the five years or so after she has a child, Schedin says.

Doctors believe hormones produced during pregnancy could be a factor, as well as "imflammation".

“After the pregnancy, when the breast begins to involute, breast cells begin to die.  It goes back to it’s pre-lactational state.  That period of time can really be a great micro-environment for cancer cells to grow," explains Dr. Patricia DeFusco, Medical Director of the Breast Disease Management Team at Hartford Hospital, following the growing research.  “We don’t really ask the right question.  We always ask the question, ‘How old were you when you had your first pregnancy?’ or ‘How old were you when you had your first menstrual period?’ but we don’t really ask the question, ‘When was your last pregnancy?'"

The researchers are trying to put together a registry to better define the postpartum period and incidence rates.  "We do need to look at a lot more data on this," says DeFusco.

During National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, DeFusco reiterates life-saving advice.  “Women need to be comfortable doing breast self-exams,” she says.  If we get to know our bodies, we can quickly report anything new or unusual we find to our doctors.

“There’s lots of changes going on in a women’s body after she delivers a child, so, being aware of what’s happening and paying attention to herself is important,” says DeFusco.

Click here to learn more about the Young Woman's Breast Cancer Translational Program, founded by researcher Pepper Schedin, now also working in Oregon.

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