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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 as a right. Dana survived breast most cancers throughout being pregnant together with her youthful daughter.

“I discovered 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 take care of a constructive perspective and do what I may, I additionally realized I wanted to just accept the assistance of others. My focus and power shifted to combating for not solely my life, however my daughter’s as nicely.”

Breast Most cancers — or Being pregnant Hormone Adjustments?

Dana and her husband Logan, a cardiac gadget nurse at UVA Well being, discovered in spring 2019 they had been anticipating a second little one. A couple of 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 widespread throughout weaning because the child’s feeding schedule adjustments. Ladies who’re nursing, pregnant — or lately have given start — expertise hormone adjustments that may have an effect on the breasts. This may make breast most cancers troublesome to seek 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 figuring out,” says Dana, who was 14 weeks pregnant.

Dealing with Breast Most cancers Throughout Being pregnant

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

Extra imaging exams often are given after a most cancers analysis. That permits medical doctors to see if the most cancers has unfold to different components of the physique. However a few of these exams aren’t secure 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 complete being pregnant not figuring out if the most cancers had unfold wherever else past my lymph nodes,” she remembers. “That added a giant concern and anxiousness issue to the entire being pregnant. However there have been so many specialists on my care crew. I used to be in good arms.”

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

Chemo & Surgical procedure Whereas Pregnant

A couple of days after Mom’s Day 2019, Dana started chemotherapy remedies. HER2-positive breast most cancers responds nicely to focused therapies. However these drugs aren’t often secure 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 detrimental for all the key breast most cancers genetic mutations, corresponding 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 remedies included chemotherapy and a decreased dose of focused remedy. Her medical crew 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 perform — it had dropped from greater than 65% to 40%, in accordance with an echocardiogram. Involved, Bergin coordinated together with her medical crew to schedule Emery’s supply the following week.

“I appreciated the individualized care that I acquired,” Dana says. “When issues didn’t go as deliberate, the medical crew 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 consultants.

Welcoming Emery; Attacking Breast Most cancers

Emery was born at 33 weeks by way of cesarean part and spent a month within the NICU. Inside per week of giving start, Dana underwent imaging exams corresponding to a bone scan, and CT scans of the chest and pelvis. Fortuitously, her most cancers had not unfold past the lymph nodes.

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

  • 30 rounds of radiation
  • Focused drug (completely different from the one she had throughout being pregnant)
  • 8 extra cycles of chemotherapy
  • 6.5 cycles of oral chemotherapy
  • Extra 12 months of one other focused drug

“I informed my crew, ‘Simply throw me again into remedies!’” Dana says. “I had two younger ladies at residence, so I needed to do every thing doable to battle 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 acquired at UVA Well being. She sees her oncology crew each six months. For now, she’s cancer-free.

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



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