Pregnant with Breast Cancer: Laura's Early Detection Story
“I have an amazing support system, which has been very helpful. I am feeling great now and so excited to get back to a ‘normal’ lifestyle!” —Laura Grable
With no troublesome family history to be concerned with, no significant risk factors, and a positive and healthy lifestyle on her side, breast cancer was the last thing 34-year-old Laura Grable was expecting. Statistically speaking, she should have been in the clear. But after noticing a lump in her breast during her regular monthly self-exam, this soon-to-be-mom of two got the frightening news she had breast cancer.
Laura was just nine weeks into her pregnancy with her second child at the time of her Stage I diagnosis, and she knew this meant her situation was different and more complex. It wasn’t just about her own treatment and recovery; it was now also about ensuring a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery for herself and her baby. She turned to Saint Luke’s Cancer Institute’s Timothy Pluard, MD, for the expert care she needed.
Over the course of her pregnancy, Laura underwent 12 rounds of chemotherapy, all while being closely monitored and supported her care team. Then, following the healthy birth of her daughter in November 2017, she underwent a lumpectomy procedure and six weeks of additional radiation. Today, Laura is in full remission.
“Chemo was difficult with a two-year-old because I felt like I was always tired, not feeling good, and I was always worried about the effects it would have on the baby,” Laura recalls of her treatment during pregnancy.
Under the guidance of her care team, she practiced a whole-health approach to her cancer treatment, focusing not only on the medication and procedures her body needed, but also on the ways that diet, exercise, and lifestyle could contribute. “I did my best to stay active and eat healthy during chemo, and I really feel like that helped me feel better throughout treatment.”
With no family history of breast cancer, Laura was shocked by her diagnosis but thankful that it was detected early, significantly aiding in her care team’s ability to easily treat it. And with an increasing number of younger women being diagnosed with breast cancer—the message of regular self-exams and annual wellness checks with a primary care provider or OB-GYN is being shared loudly, clearly, and often by experts.
“Most women who get breast cancer don’t have a family history,” Dr. Pluard said. “Changes to the breasts are normal, but having a physician be aware of the changes and monitor them for anything suspicious is what helps us catch cancer earlier and treat it more successfully.”
While early detection was a benefit in Laura’s treatment plan, her pregnancy added an unexpected layer of complexity. But with the experts at Saint Luke’s Cancer Institute on her team, her pregnancy was not treated as a complication, but rather as another important factor in her treatment plan.
“There is a misconception that a cancer diagnosis during pregnancy means that the outcome is going to be worse or that the treatment will affect the baby,” Dr. Pluard said. “But the truth is that with the right level of care and an appropriate treatment plan, the outcomes are just as good and the effects are minimal.”
Under Dr. Pluard’s care, Laura not only rid her body of the breast cancer that turned her busy life upside down; she also enjoyed a healthy pregnancy and the safe delivery of her now-busy toddler, Lucy. She did it with early detection, her expert clinical team, and a family who cared for her every step of the way.
“I have an amazing support system, which has been very helpful. I am feeling great now and so excited to get back to a ‘normal’ lifestyle!”