Health Team

'Miracle Baby' Born as Mother Battles Breast Cancer

Posted October 25, 2007
Updated October 26, 2007

— Imagine the joy of being pregnant mixed with the shocking news of having breast cancer. It happens to about one in 3,000 women, according to health experts.

The odds might increase as more women wait to have children later in life. However, doctors can tailor the cancer treatment without harming the baby.

Michelle Simmons was 33 when she noticed a visible lump in her breast in July 2004. It was a small malignant tumor. Then, Simmons found out on Sept. 2 that she was pregnant.

“So it was a week prior to my lumpectomy when I found out that I was pregnant,” she said.

Dr. Carey Anders, an oncologist at Duke University Medical Center, and a team of doctors developed a new strategy to treat Simmons' cancer.

She had a lumpectomy – but the standard sentinel lymph node biopsy, which includes using a radioactive dye, might have harmed the baby.

“They just went in around the tumor and pulled as many lymph nodes as they could,” Simmons said.

The cancer had not spread to lymph nodes. Chemotherapy would have to wait until after the first trimester – and then only a few chemotherapy drugs are considered safe.

“And there has actually been fairly good evidence for good outcomes for mothers and babies treated with chemotherapy during pregnancy,” Anders said.

Anders said the window for chemo treatment is tricky “because we don’t want the chemotherapy in the mother’s system at the time of delivery.”

It could induce early labor, so doctors stop chemo within three weeks of delivery. Simmons' delivery was four weeks early. Her daughter, Macey, weighed just 5 pounds, but was healthy.

“[She’s] 2 ½ years old going on 15 [and she’s] very healthy,” Simmons said.

After the birth, Simmons said she had new strength to endure radiation and beat the cancer. She's hopeful it won't return so she can enjoy more time with her husband and daughter.

“I definitely consider her to be a miracle baby,” she said.

The American Cancer Society recommends women in their 20s and 30s perform regular breast self-exams and receive clinical breast exams by their doctor every three years. Then, starting at age 40, combine those exams with annual mammograms.

If you have a family history of breast cancer, talk to your doctor about earlier screening – especially before planning pregnancy.


Please with your account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • anggiet Oct 27, 2007

    jbduckett, I am so proud of you! Congrats on a beautiful daughter and being cancer free! I just had my first mammogram at 39 even though I've been asking for one since I was 35! My doc said I was finally "old enough"! Ladies, get those mammies grammed!

  • jbduckett Oct 26, 2007

    I am so happy to see that more doctors are now aware that it is possible to successfully treat a pregnant woman with cancer and have the baby turn out perfectly. I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer when I was 4 months pregnant. I was devastated to find out from my 1st oncologist that he recommended a DNC. They told me my cancer was very aggressive & I could not wait for the baby to be born if I wanted to survive. I was not upset I had cancer, but upset I would lose my baby. Luckily (a miracle) we were put in touch with a Dr. who would treat me while pregnant. I underwent a mastectomy & 6 A/C chemo treatments while pregnant, had my daughter via c-section, had 4 more chemo treatments and 6 1/2 wks radiation. My little miracle is now 5 & is absolutely perfect. I am still cancer-free and spread the word whenever I can that cancer treatments can be successful for a pregnant woman and her baby.

  • Yelena Oct 26, 2007

    TheAdm, I'm guessing with that amount of radiation to the breast tissue, that breast feeding was out. One of the few reasons a woman should ever bottle feed, if you ask me.

  • LambeauSouth Oct 26, 2007

    This has been happening for years. My cousin who lives in Nevada
    had a Brain anurism (Sp?) when she was pregnant. They also treated her cancer with different forms of treatment. That was ten years ago and Mother and Baby are just fine.

  • Mommy2Caleb+Carly Oct 26, 2007

    Wow, she is a strong woman...FINALLY some good news.

  • Mom V Oct 26, 2007

    Awesome story. Hope the mom stays healthy.

  • packandcanesfan Oct 26, 2007

    Thanks for sharing such a positive story. So glad that mother and child are doing so well. :)

  • DevNTaysMom Oct 26, 2007


  • TheAdmiral Oct 25, 2007

    She's two and a half years old going on 15? Sounds like a very old story. Does all the press regurgitate old stuff as new?

    What they did not point out here if she was able to breast feed or not. Now that would have made it a miracle!

    Congrats on the family edition!

  • ifonly Oct 25, 2007

    It is amazing!