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Breast Most cancers Throughout Being pregnant: A Survivor’s Story


Cuddles, first phrases, storytimes, and first days of faculty. Dana Henry cherishes the small moments together with her daughters, Callie, 6, and Emery, 4. She takes nothing without any consideration. Dana survived breast most cancers throughout being pregnant together with her youthful daughter.

“I realized to launch management and to not sweat the small stuff,” says the assistant dietetic internship director and prenatal dietitian at UVA Well being. “Whereas I attempted to keep up a constructive perspective and do what I might, I additionally realized I wanted to simply accept the assistance of others. My focus and vitality shifted to combating for not solely my life, however my daughter’s as effectively.”

Breast Most cancers — or Being pregnant Hormone Modifications?

Dana and her husband Logan, a cardiac system nurse at UVA Well being, discovered in spring 2019 they have been anticipating a second baby. Just a few weeks later, Dana felt a lump in her left breast. At first, she wasn’t involved.

“The very first thing that got here to thoughts was that it was a clogged milk duct,” she remembers. “I’d began weaning Callie from nursing — she was virtually 2 years previous.”

Plugged milk ducts are frequent throughout weaning because the child’s feeding schedule adjustments. Ladies who’re nursing, pregnant — or not too long ago have given start — expertise hormone adjustments that may have an effect on the breasts. This may make breast most cancers troublesome to search out.

Testing a Suspicious Lump

A month handed, and the mass in Dana’s breast didn’t go away. So her OB/GYN specialist Katherine Latimer, MD, ordered an ultrasound. The outcomes involved the radiologist. That very same day, she additionally ended up having a mammogram and a biopsy.

“This all occurred on Friday afternoon, so I had an anxious weekend of not understanding,” says Dana, who was 14 weeks pregnant.

Dealing with Breast Most cancers Throughout Being pregnant

The next Monday, she obtained the information. Dana had HER2-positive, hormone unfavourable most cancers in her left breast. HER2 is a gene that helps breast most cancers cells develop rapidly, in accordance with the American Most cancers Society. The most cancers had unfold to her lymph nodes close to the left breast.

Extra imaging checks normally are given after a most cancers analysis. That permits medical doctors to see if the most cancers has unfold to different elements of the physique. However a few of these checks aren’t protected for unborn infants. Dana must wait till after Emery’s start for extra testing.

A pregnant Dana, bald from chemo, with her daughter and husband.

“I spent my total being pregnant not understanding if the most cancers had unfold wherever else past my lymph nodes,” she remembers. “That added a giant concern and nervousness issue to the entire being pregnant. However there have been so many specialists on my care workforce. I used to be in good fingers.”

After analysis, Dana’s maternal-fetal drugs specialist Christian Chisholm, MD, led her high-risk care workforce together with breast oncologist Patrick M. Dillon, MD, and breast surgeon Shayna Showalter, MD.

Chemo & Surgical procedure Whereas Pregnant

Just a few days after Mom’s Day 2019, Dana started chemotherapy therapies. HER2-positive breast most cancers responds effectively to focused therapies. However these drugs aren’t normally protected for unborn infants.

“We began off combining two several types of chemotherapy,” says Dana, who has no household historical past of breast most cancers and examined unfavourable for all the most important breast most cancers genetic mutations, akin to BRCA.

After 4 chemo cycles, imaging revealed her tumor had grown. So Showalter carried out a left mastectomy and eliminated the lymph nodes from the left armpit. Dana was 25 weeks pregnant.

Following surgical procedure, her therapies included chemotherapy and a decreased dose of focused remedy. Her medical workforce additionally elevated progress scans for Emery, who developed as anticipated for her gestational age. Heart specialist James Bergin, MD, medical director of UVA Well being’s Coronary heart Failure/Cardiac Transplantation Program, additionally monitored Dana’s coronary heart operate — it had dropped from greater than 65% to 40%, in accordance with an echocardiogram. Involved, Bergin coordinated together with her medical workforce to schedule Emery’s supply the subsequent week.

“I appreciated the individualized care that I obtained,” Dana says. “When issues didn’t go as deliberate, the medical workforce needed to pivot alongside the way in which. They all the time developed the perfect care plan for me, in addition to for Emery.”

Pregnant + Most cancers?

It is time to name within the specialists.

Welcoming Emery; Attacking Breast Most cancers

Emery was born at 33 weeks through cesarean part and spent a month within the NICU. Inside every week of giving start, Dana underwent imaging checks akin to a bone scan, and CT scans of the chest and pelvis. Thankfully, her most cancers had not unfold past the lymph nodes.

Now that Emery was out of the womb, Dana was capable of strive any applicable most cancers remedy. She had:

  • 30 rounds of radiation
  • Focused drug (totally different from the one she had throughout being pregnant)
  • 8 extra cycles of chemotherapy
  • 6.5 cycles of oral chemotherapy
  • Extra yr of one other focused drug

“I advised my workforce, ‘Simply throw me again into therapies!’” Dana says. “I had two younger ladies at house, so I needed to do every thing attainable to struggle the most cancers.”

A happy pink-swaddled newborn, Emery survived her mother's cancer treatments in utero.

Dana and Logan are each grateful for the care she and Emery obtained at UVA Well being. She sees her oncology workforce each six months. For now, she’s cancer-free.

“One of many nice issues about UVA Well being is that each one the individuals concerned in my care have been in a single place,” Dana says. “They already have been conversant in working collectively on totally different affected person circumstances. I wasn’t the primary affected person that they had handled for breast most cancers throughout being pregnant. In order that coordination of care actually grew to become essential, particularly later in my being pregnant. We have been impressed with how they took care of us.”

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