Celebrating Life

Shaunta Chamberlin discovered she had breast cancer while she was pregnant. Here’s how physicians from Women & Infants and the Cancer Institute, two Centers of Excellence at The University of Tennessee Medical Center, collaborated to save her and son Max.

Being told you have breast cancer is never easy, but it was particularly shocking for Shaunta Chamberlin who was pregnant at the time of diagnosis.

Shaunta, who works as a pharmacist at The University of Tennessee Medical Center and a professor at University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, had been celebrating her recent marriage and the news of her pregnancy. So when she found a breast lump, cancer was the last thing on her mind.

Shaunta Chamberlin, her husband Eric and son, Joey. The family was celebrating the Chamberlins’ recent marriage and the news of Shaunta’s pregnancy when Shaunta discovered she had breast cancer.

“I saw my obstetrician, Jaclyn van Nes, MD, at University Women's Specialists, who immediately sent me for an ultrasound at the Breast Center at The University of Tennessee Medical Center.” University Women's Specialists, an OB-GYN practice in the East Tennessee community, is part of the Women & Infants Center of Excellence at the medical center.

This led to a diagnosis of a rare type of breast cancer. "My first thought was, what does this mean for my pregnancy?" said Shaunta.

"I was aware that I was at higher risk for breast cancer, but like most women my age, living their lives, it was that thing of it's not going to happen to me so you don't necessarily think about it every day," said Shaunta.

Breast cancer during pregnancy is a rare occurrence, but we do see it," explained Shaunta’s breast surgeon Surgical Oncologist Jillian Lloyd, MD with the medical center's Cancer Institute.

Shaunta’s colleagues at The University of Tennessee Medical Center threw a baby shower for Shaunta. Of her treatment, Shaunta said, “We just hit it head on because we wanted the best for sweet little Max.”

With the help of Lloyd, the only female, fellowship-trained breast surgeon in the region, and a team of obstetricians, radiologists and oncologists, they moved forward with the right plan of action for both Shaunta and her unborn son, Max.

"The research indicates that for the majority of patients, particularly in their second trimester, chemotherapy is relatively safe for the fetus," explained Lloyd.

"We just hit it head on because we wanted the best for sweet little Max," said Shaunta.

Max Chamberlin was born 10 weeks early and spent three months in the medical center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Now he’s a healthy, happy two year old.

The medical center offered Shaunta a one-of-a-kind approach to cancer treatment. “Throughout Shaunta’s treatment journey," said Lloyd, "it was crucial that we continued strong collaboration not only between Shaunta’s care team at the Cancer Institute, but also with the Center for Women & Infants’ physicians responsible for her OB-GYN care and neonatologists who would be caring for Max."

Shaunta said, "Every time I saw one of my care team, they would have spoken to the others to be sure we were all on the same page about what was happening. It was like they had started a Shaunta and Max group chat!"

It was this multidisciplinary and multi-faceted approach, which spanned many different clinicians and departments, that gave both Shaunta and Max a safe and healthy delivery.

Max loves being with big brother Joey and his dad, Eric. But Shaunta doesn’t take any of it for granted.

Chemotherapy during pregnancy can cause the baby to come prematurely. Max was born 10 weeks early and spent three months in the medical center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, located down the hall from Labor & Delivery. In the meantime, mom underwent more surgeries and chemotherapy.

"The beautiful thing is, moms and babies are pretty resilient,” said Lloyd. “It’s not a walk in the park, it’s not an easy balance, but we see that babies and moms do remarkably well from a cancer perspective," said Lloyd.

Today, Shaunta and her family are enjoying life – particularly since Shaunta just celebrated two years cancer free.

"I'm doing great, Max is doing great and my family is very excited we can take a deep breath," said Shaunta.

Max is a happy, healthy two-year-old who loves being with big brother Joey and his dad, Eric.

“When I look at my scars,” she said, “I remember how quickly things can change, and how precious life is.”

The Best Treatment for Breast Cancer Patients

The Cancer Institute at The University of Tennessee Medical Center is the most qualified cancer care center in the region, offering cancer specialists and services that include:

  • Comprehensive care for breast cancer patients under one roof. Patients receive all of their cancer care including surgical consultations, radiation therapy, integrative therapy and chemotherapy infusions, all in the same building.
  • A multidisciplinary, innovative approach to care. Patients are reviewed at multidisciplinary tumor conferences attended by surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, gastroenterologists, radiologists, pathologists, genetic counselors and clinical nurses in order to determine the best treatment plan for the individual. This individualized treatment plan is designed to maximize outcomes and quality of life.
  • The only fellowship-trained female breast surgeon in the region, Jillian Lloyd, MD. Our team of cancer physicians trained at some of the top institutions in the country, bringing the best care to the region in specialties including surgical oncology, medical oncology and radiation oncology.
  • Nurse navigators. The medical center's highly trained nurse navigators act as the patient’s liaison throughout the journey from diagnosis through treatment.
  • Cutting-edge research. Physician-researchers like Amila Orucevic, MD, PhD, who created a groundbreaking predictive breast cancer test, work daily to expand the frontiers of cancer medicine. Through the medical center, patients can also participate in national clinical trials.
  • Integrative health services. With a focus on treating the cancer patient's body, mind and spirit, the Cancer Institute offers with healing integrative services like acupuncture, massage, psychotherapy, Reiki, facials and yoga as well as consultations with . Featuring integrative medicine physician Clayton Bell, MD.
  • Befitting You Mastectomy Boutique. This specially designed boutique is here to assist women who have had a mastectomy or lumpectomy and/or women undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Here you'll find prosthetics and fittings, clothing, wigs and gifts.


Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.