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Breast cancer during pregnancy is rare. But if you find a lump or notice any changes in your breasts that concern you, tell your doctor or nurse right away. There are a variety of tests a pregnant woman can have if breast cancer is suspected. And there are options for treating breast cancer if you are pregnant.

How common is breast cancer during pregnancy?

Breast cancer is found in about 1 in every 3,000 pregnant women. But it is the most common type of cancer found during pregnancy

Hormone changes during pregnancy cause the breasts to change. They may become larger, lumpy, and/or tender. This can make it harder for you or your doctor to notice a lump caused by cancer until it gets quite large.

Another reason it may be hard to find breast cancers early during pregnancy is that many women put off breast cancer screening with mammograms until after the pregnancy. And because pregnancy and breastfeeding can make breast tissue denser, it can be harder to see early cancer on a mammogram.Mammography; the left breast is pressed between two plates. An X-ray machine is used to take pictures of the breast. An inset shows the x-ray film image with an arrow pointed at abnormal tissue.

Because of these challenges, when a pregnant woman develops breast cancer, it’s often diagnosed at a later stage than it would be if she were not pregnant. It’s also more likely to have spread to lymph nodes. If you find a lump or notice any changes in your breasts that concern you, don’t ignore them. Tell your doctor or nurse right away. If your doctor doesn’t want to check it out with a mammogram, ask about other kinds of imaging tests such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). You may need to get a second opinion. Any suspicious breast changes should be checked out or even biopsied (see below) before assuming they are a normal response to pregnancy.

Signs of breast cancer include a lump or change in the breast.

These and other signs may be caused by breast cancer or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area.
A change in the size or shape of the breast.
Fluid, other than breast milk, from the nipple, especially if it’s bloody.
Scaly, red, or swollen skin on the breast, nipple, or areola (the dark area of skin around the nipple).
Dimples in the breast that look like the skin of an orange, called peau d’orange.

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