Receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer is news that no one wants to hear. But imagine if you were diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant.

When a normal pregnancy becomes complicated, or a woman with a medical issue is expecting, she needs highly specialized care. Being pregnant with breast cancer, or any other form of cancer, adds an extra level of complication and risk to treatment.

In this article, you’ll read how Gardenia Pena, mother of four, was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer while she was three months pregnant. She knew the road ahead would be tough-going, but decided to not only fight this cancer for her own health, but also for the life of her unborn baby.

Discovering she had breast cancer while pregnant

It all began in December 2018, when Gardenia noticed her left breast was becoming red. As it continued to redden, she went to her doctor and received antibiotics. When her condition did not seem to improve, her primary care doctor sent her to the Women & Infants Emergency Department.

By the time she was able to see a specialist, her condition had worsened significantly, with her breast beginning to deform. After being placed on intravenous antibiotics, Gardenia was sent for an ultrasound and was referred to the Breast Health Center at Women & Infants Hospital for a biopsy.

“They gave me the news the last day I was in the hospital that they found cancer in the biopsy. I was really scared…When they also told me that I was stage 3 cancer, I got more scared,” said Gardenia.

Three treatment options to choose from

After having an MRI and mammogram for further examination, her doctor at the Breast Health Center at Women & Infants Hospital gave her three treatment options, the majority of which did not include keeping the baby.

Gardenia explained, “One of the options was to keep the baby, and the two other options were without the baby. The doctor explained that it depended on whatever I wanted to do, but that there was more risk with the baby. So I was wondering how to fight for my life and my baby’s life at the same time. I have all my children too, but it was in my head that I wanted to keep this baby.”

Understandably, in addition to feeling scared, Gardenia began feeling overwhelmed and depressed with her current diagnosis with cancer.

“In a moment, our joy turned to fear. I was so scared; not just for myself, but for our baby,” said Gardenia.

However bad Gardenia’s circumstances were, the doctors at Women & Infants Hospital gave her hope.

“They said, ‘you are not alone, and we will get through this together,’” she explained.

Upon hearing this, Gardenia ultimately decided to undergo treatment for breast cancer while pregnant at Women & Infants, where Women & Infants’ Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine worked closely with the Breast Health Center to provide the compassionate care that Gardenia needed.

A happy ending

patient diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant and family

On October 23, 2019, Gardenia gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Josue Jesus. Gardenia is continuing treatment now that the baby is born, confident in the care she receives from doctors and nurses at Women & Infants Hospital.

“The Breast Health Center at Women and Infants Hospital is an excellent place. They gave me a lot of support and strength,” said Gardenia.

With Gardenia, the team at Women & Infants was able to guide her safely through her pregnancy and now aide in her cancer treatment as well.

“Women & Infants was my lifeline to healing, coping, and hope. I am ready to start the next round of chemotherapy at Women & Infants….where I know I am in the best hands,” said Gardenia.


About the Breast Health Center at Women & Infants Hospital

At the Breast Health Center at Women & Infants Hospital, we combine advanced technology and a full spectrum of treatment and support options with the most crucial elements – specialized expertise and a compassion that guides us in all we do.

To learn more about our treatment and support options at the Breast Health Center, please call (401) 453-7540 or visit womenandinfants.org/breasthealth.