THINKING ABOUT CHILDREN AFTER
BREAST CANCER

While few breast cancers happen in women before the change oflife, having children is a major concern for young women. They may have been ready to start or continue a family at the time of their cancer.  Other young women may have not yet thought about having a family, but worry about whether they will be able to have children in the future.

Effects of Treatment on Having Children
Women can get pregnant after treatment for breast cancer.  It depends on a lot of things.

  • Surgery does not affect being able to have children.  It may reduce the ability to breast-feed.
  • Radiation does not affect being able to have children.  It may decrease the ability to breast-feed.
  • Chemotherapy may affect fertility:
  • Some drugs canthe ovaries.
  • Some drugs may cause changes in hormone levels needed for pregnancy.
  • Some drugs may cause your menstrual periods to stop for a short time or permanently.
  • Tamoxifen:
  • May cause changes in hormone levels needed for pregnancy and ovulating.
  • May cause your menstrual periods to stop for a short time or permanently.
  • Is usually taken for 5 years after treatment.
  • Women must take measures to prevent getting pregnant while on this drug due to the harm it can cause a fetus.
  • May boost ovulation during fertility treatments.

Other reasons that affect being able to have children

  • Age.  The older you are, the less likely you will become pregnant.  A healthy 30-year-old woman has a 20% chance of becoming pregnant each month.  A healthy 40-year-old woman has a 5% of becoming pregnant each month.
  • Fertility rates decline a great deal after the age of 40.
  • Older age and certain drugs used in breast cancer treatment can affect your periods causing them to stop.
  • Being overweight.
  • Smoking.

When Pregnancy occurs after Treatment

Research has shown that:

  • Pregnancy after treatment has not been shown to have a poor effect on survival after breast cancer. Some studies have suggested having a protective effect.
  • Hormone changes during pregnancy have had little effect on return of breast cancer.
  • The rate of miscarriage in women after breast cancer is slightly higher than in women without breast cancer.
  • It is advised that women wait at least 2 years after treatment before trying to become pregnant.
  • Children born to women with a history of breast cancer do not have any harmful effects due to the breast cancer.

When do you need to seek help?
You should talk to your doctor if you want to try to become pregnant after being treated for breast cancer.  There are many things to think about.  Your doctors will be able to discuss the issues with you.  You may also need “extra help” to become pregnant and may need to see a fertility specialist.

Useful websites:
Cancer & Fertility Preservation. UAB Medicine.
Fertile Hope
Breast Cancer Treatment and Fertility for Young Women.
Breast Cancer Organization: Fertility issues
Fertility & Pregnancy: Exploring your Options. Living Beyond Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer and Fertility
How breast cancer affects fertility