Metro woman battles breast cancer while pregnant

Gabrielle Hughes found out she had breast cancer when she was four months pregnant. (Photo provided by Hughes)

About 1 in 8 women in the US will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. For women under 45, the risk is higher among African American women than white women. We met one metro survivor who faced the disease while she was expecting.

At 27 years old, Gabrielle Hughes was joyfully expecting her second child. At around 4 months pregnant, she discovered a lump in her breast.

"I felt it, and then I asked my fiancé to feel it," Hughes said. "Over time it felt like it was getting bigger."

She assumed it was just a pregnancy symptom, but her doctor sent her to Mercy's Breast Center.

"I was driving home from work, and they said, 'Yes, it's cancer.' That was it. My life was over, I thought."

Her oncologist at Mercy, Abby Bova, tells FOX 25 it was an aggressive form of cancer. Their mission was to fight the cancer while protecting Gabrielle's unborn child.

Dr. Bova said, "I think most women are surprised that if you time the chemotherapy during the 2nd and 3rd trimester, it's much safer than most women may think"

"I was very scared," Gabrielle said. "Because i didn't know how it would effect my baby."

Gabrielle began her treatments right away and opted to have a mastectomy. There were times, she says, she wanted to give up.

"You still have the symptoms of being pregnant," she said. "So it's like, I don't know if I'm sick because of the baby or I'm sick because of the treatment."

Gabrielle juggled cancer and pregnancy all while being a mother to a young child. Dr. Bova says she did it with a positive attitude and sheer determination.

"She showed up to every treatment, and inspired the staff in the treatment room and the patients around her at the same time," said Dr. Bova. "She's an amazing young woman."

Gabrielle paused her treatments after 5 months to give birth to a perfectly healthy baby boy. She calls Anthony her "miracle baby."

He's now 8 months old, and Gabrielle is celebrating being cancer free.

"You have to stay positive," she said. "That's the only way you can really get through it, is by staying positive."

Even though certain breast cancer medications and treatments aren't safe during pregnancy, according to Komen, the prognosis is about the same for pregnant women as non-pregnant women. No matter your age, it's always a good idea to tell your doctor if you notice anything suspicious.

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