A new study has reported that women with pregnancy-associated breast cancer, especially those diagnosed shortly after delivery, have a poorer prognosis compared to breast cancer patients with no recent childbirth. The rate of pregnancy-associated breast cancer is likely to increase as a result of the continuing trend towards postponing childbearing. Pregnancy-associated breast cancer was defined for purposes of the study as a diagnosis during pregnancy or within two years after childbirth.

The study examined survival of women with pregnancy-associated breast cancer compared to similar patients with non-pregnancy-associated breast cancer. The study included 15,721 Swedish women diagnosed with breast cancer at ages 15 to 44 years, of whom 1,110 (7%) had pregnancy-associated breast cancer. Population-based health databases were used to obtain information on outcome and breast cancer risk factors.

Women with pregnancy-associated breast cancer were more likely to die than women with non-pregnancy-associated breast cancer. Forty-six percent of women with pregnancy-associated breast cancer died within 15 years after diagnosis compared to 34% of non-pregnancy-associated breast cancer patients diagnosed at the same age. Deaths in both groups peaked near two years after diagnosis, with the highest peak found in women diagnosed four to six months after giving birth. The increased risk of death among women with pregnancy-associated breast cancer persisted for 10 years after diagnosis. An increased awareness among clinicians may help reduce the mortality in women with pregnancy-associated breast cancer, for example by avoiding undue delays in diagnosis and treatment, according to the authors.

Please see our articles on how young breast cancer patients can reduce risk of recurrence and how to protect our daughters from breast cancer for more information.