Dubai: Doctors involved with caring for pregnant women should routinely check their patients for breast cancer, a UAE-based doctor said on Wednesday.

Pregnancy has not been linked with incidences of breast cancer, Dr Mustafa Kutiyanawala, a consultant surgeon at the Sharjah’s Central Private Hospital, told medical professionals attending a forum at Arab Health 2017 in Dubai. In addition, only 15 per cent of cases of breast cancer in women occur before the age of 45.

However, the difficulties of detecting the disease in expectant women make breast exams more important during antenatal care.

“[At] a reasonably busy hospital in the UAE, there are about 200 to 300 deliveries per month. Which means that there will be on average about one to two cases of gestational breast cancer,” he said.

As breast increase in size and density during pregnancy, the doctor warned, medical professionals might find it trickier to detect cancer in pregnant patients.

“There’s a high incidence of false negatives and false positives.”

Any diagnosis of breast cancer during a pregnancy is likely to place a huge toll on the sufferer’s emotional health.

“The diagnosis of any cancer, a breast cancer or other cancers, invokes huge emotions — emotions of anger, fear, resentment, rage, chaos,” said Kutiyanawala.

“In the mix of cancer, if you add an unborn child, the cohesion of emotions multiples manifold.”

Surgical removal of cancerous breast tissue can be done during all three stages of pregnancy — first, second and third trimester.

Pregnant women should not undergo chemotherapy, however, until the second trimester to lower the risk of harming the foetus.

Women who are undergoing chemotherapy at the time of birth should wait for two weeks until the end of the treatment before they begin breastfeeding from the healthy breast.

For women who wish to have a child after treatment for breast cancer should wait for at least two years — preferably more — before trying to get pregnant, he added.

“Re-occurrence [of breast cancer] is the highest in the first two years. So if women do want to start a family, it’s best to do it after two years of completion of treatment.”