- What happens after treatment for breast cancer?
- Lymphedema after breast cancer treatment
- Emotional aspects of breast cancer
- Body image after breast cancer treatment
- Sexuality after breast cancer
- Pregnancy after breast cancer
- Post-menopausal hormone therapy after breast cancer
- Seeing a new doctor after breast cancer treatment
- Lifestyle changes after breast cancer treatment
- If treatment for breast cancer stops working
Pregnancy after breast cancer
Some treatments for breast cancer, such as certain chemo drugs, may affect a woman’s ability to have a baby (fertility). Still, many women are able to become pregnant after treatment. The best time to talk with your doctor about fertility is before starting breast cancer treatment.
Because many breast cancers are sensitive to estrogen, there has been concern that if a woman has been treated for breast cancer, high hormone levels during pregnancy might increase the chance of the cancer coming back. Studies have shown, though, that pregnancy does not increase the risk of the cancer coming back after successful treatment.
Still, many doctors advise breast cancer survivors to wait at least 2 years after all treatment has finished before trying to get pregnant, though the best length of time to wait is not clear. Two years is thought to give them the chance to find any early return of the cancer, which could affect a woman’s decision to become pregnant. Still, this advice is not based on data from any clinical trials. And some studies point out that breast cancer can come back after the 2-year mark, so every case is different. Each woman’s decision is based on many things, such as her age, fertility, desire for more pregnancies, type of breast cancer, risk of an early relapse, and the potential effect estrogen may have on her risk of a breast cancer coming back.
Women taking chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or targeted therapy should talk with their doctors before trying to become pregnant. These drugs could affect a growing fetus, so it isn’t safe to get pregnant until all treatment is complete. Stopping treatment early can increase the risk of the cancer growing or coming back.
There is no proof that a woman’s past breast cancer has any direct effect on her baby. Researchers have found no increased rate of birth defects or other long-term health concerns in children born to women who have had breast cancer.
There’s also no proof that breastfeeding after breast cancer treatment shortens survival. But women who have had breast surgery and/or radiation should know that they may have problems breastfeeding from the affected breast. Studies have shown reduced milk production in that breast as well as structural changes that can make it difficult and painful for the baby to latch onto the breast.
Another important thing to remember is that chemotherapy for breast cancer also can damage the ovaries, sometimes causing immediate or delayed infertility. Cancer treatment can also cause women to delay trying to get pregnant. These factors together often mean that a woman has less chance of getting pregnant after breast cancer treatment. For more about how cancer treatment can affect fertility, see our document called Fertility and Women With Cancer.
All women who have or have had had breast cancer and are thinking about having children should talk with their doctors about how treatment could affect their chances for pregnancy. This discussion should also cover the risk of the cancer coming back. In many cases, counseling can help women sort through the choices that come with surviving breast cancer and planning a pregnancy.
Last Medical Review: 09/25/2014
Last Revised: 12/31/2014