Prgnancy and Inflammatory Breast Cancer

(by Stella) An unusually high percentage of Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) patients were pregnant or breastfeeding when they first developed symptoms.  I was.  In fact, Danny’s refusal to nurse on my right side was the very first sign that something was wrong with my breast.  Of course, I assumed his blindness was giving him positional aversion.  I wish I’d paid more attention.  Every other symptom came from there; most could be explained away as results of weaning.

This morning I read this article by Health Day.  It talks about how pregnancy activates a group of genes that control inflammation.  Their study shows there may be a connection between those genes and  Inflammatory Breast Cancer.

There is an interesting and contradictory history between pregnancy and breast cancer.  Most often women hear that pregnancy and breastfeeding help prevent breast cancer.  This is true… to a certain extent.  The younger a woman is when she has her first child the better the preventative effect.  However, a first child born after age 35 nets the mother roughly twice the risk of developing a breast cancer in her lifetime.  That fact alone could account for the increase in breast cancers in our generation.

The National Cancer Institute has a comprehensive list of the factors which will increase or decrease a woman’s risk of breast cancer.  It essentially breaks down to this, to optimize your chances of avoiding the beast you should have at least two kids at a young age and you should breast feed each of them for a year or longer.  And if you want to protect you children from breast cancer, too you should have the foresight to develop pre-eclampsia while you carry them.

That is all pretty much common knowledge.  What is not commonly known, however, is that a woman’s general risk of breast cancer is increased after a she gives birth.  Temporarily.  For a few years.  Contradictory.  So, if a mother can make it through the few years of increased susceptibility she decreases her overall chances of breast cancer.

Feels like it’s all out of our control, doesn’t it?  Except for the breastfeeding part.  That’s not completely true.  We can limit our alcohol intake.  We can maintain a healthy body weight because estrogen is created by fat and fat by estrogen.  It’s an infinite loop.  Gah!  Also, being physically active can reduce risk and eating lots of fruits and vegies.  Don’t you hate it when your parents turn out to be right about everything???

It’s not all bad news, however.  The NCI is doing research on how to mimic the protective effects of pregnancy.  Maybe if they can understand that they may be able to use the knowledge for preventative strategies.

I pray for God to guide their research.  I pray for the day no other woman must lay down her baby and walk into a cancer clinic.

Cross posted to I Can’t Complain Any More Than Usual.


4 Responses to Prgnancy and Inflammatory Breast Cancer

  1. Thank you for writing this. It’s just so FRUSTRATING that everything we think is true is now only KIND of true under certain conditions and that things that we thought were totally NOT true are now kind of true under certain conditions.

    Ack. Cancer is so completely frustrating. And anxiety-producing. And just plain confusing.

    I am praying, right along side of you, my friend.

  2. Risk factors for breast cancer

    1.Genetic: with a family history of hereditary breast cancer can be manifested in two forms: one for mothers with breast cancer, her daughter has also been identified in breast cancer


  3. Susan (WhyMommy) says:

    You bet. While my ibc was diagnosed in exactly the same way (crazy!), I had no idea about temporary increased suceptibility after giving birth!


  4. ashley says:

    I have to say this is an interesting and complicated topic. I’m currently working on my master’s in nursing and am writing a paper of maternal role attainment and theory research. I work with cancer patients and my mother was diagnosed with medullary carcinoma of the thyroid when I was six months old. Needless to say I’m interested in maternal role attainment and cancer diagnosis. I really like your blog and think it’s a great way for women to support each other. Keep up the good work!

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