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Breast Cancer Treatment Saves Pregnant Mother

Breast cancer patient Stacey Johnson and her son.

August 13, 2019

The joy of a problem-free pregnancy turned to fear when Stacey Johnson felt a lump in her left breast. Yet today, she has a healthy baby boy after seeking a second opinion and putting her trust in The University of Kansas Cancer Center.

Stacey’s journey began 10 days after she discovered she was pregnant with her second child. She felt the lump while showering and told her obstetrician about it.

Her doctor suggested an ultrasound, which led to appointments with other specialists. None of them suspected cancer based on Stacey’s age, 31, and lack of family history, but they recommended a biopsy to give her peace of mind.

When the biopsy came back positive for breast cancer, Stacey was advised to consider terminating her pregnancy.

“Understanding that my case was unique, but not fully understanding all the options, this was a scary first opinion,” recalls Stacey, who is a neonatal intensive care nurse at Children’s Mercy Hospital.

She turned to The University of Kansas Cancer Center for a second opinion. There, she found herself in the expert hands of medical oncologist Lauren Nye, MD, who assured Stacey she could receive breast cancer treatment without terminating her pregnancy.

Breast cancer treatment for 2

Dr. Nye said while cancer during pregnancy is rare, it’s becoming more common as women choose to have children later in life. Termination of a pregnancy is not always necessary to deliver appropriate treatment and care.

“Women can safely undergo chemotherapy and surgery during the second trimester,” says Dr. Nye. With calm confidence and straightforward advice, Dr. Nye guided Stacey through cancer care and a successful pregnancy.

Stacey’s treatment plan included a single mastectomy, chemotherapy before and after the baby’s birth, radiation and Herceptin® infusions. During the treatment she received while pregnant, Stacey was closely monitored by experts in maternal-fetal medicine at The University of Kansas Health System.

“I had ultrasounds every 10 days during chemotherapy to monitor the baby’s growth and blood flow. They tailored my treatment plan with 2 patients in mind: me and my baby,” Stacey says.

“When you have a complicated case like Stacey’s, it takes a team effort. We were able to give Stacey all of the specialized care she needed at the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center in the region,” says Dr. Nye.

Eye on the prize

Stacey pushed through mastectomy surgery with breast surgical oncologist Jamie Wagner, DO, and chemotherapy with a goal in mind.

“My family needs me,” says Stacey, who also has a daughter, Reese, 3. “Your perspective changes when you are faced with mortality. I have such strong support from my family and friends.” She credits her husband, Chase, as her biggest supporter and said he coordinated her care.

Stacey delivered a healthy baby boy, William, on May 30, 2017, and then resumed her chemotherapy. She also completed radiation treatment, and will continue with targeted therapy until mid-summer. Once treatment is complete, she looks forward to having breast reconstruction.

Expert care

Stacey is grateful for the care she received at The University of Kansas Cancer Center.

“We are so privileged to have this level of expertise right here in Kansas City,” Stacey says. “Both my surgeon and my oncologist have not hidden the fact that I have an aggressive cancer. Their head-on, transparent approach has been a calming influence on me and my family.”

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Having confidence in your diagnosis and treatment is critical when you're faced with the possibility of cancer. Call 913-588-1227 for a second opinion.

As with all treatments, individual patient results vary. It is important to discuss your treatment options with your healthcare provider.

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