Having Children After Breast Cancer
Young women being treated for breast cancer may be concerned about loss of fertility (the ability to have a natural pregnancy).
Both chemotherapy and hormone therapy can impact fertility and shorten the window of time to have children.
Learn more about breast cancer treatment and infertility.
There are steps women can take to help preserve fertility.
If you wish to have a child after treatment, talk with your health care provider (and if possible, a fertility specialist) before making treatment decisions and discuss your options.
Meeting with a fertility specialist as early as possible (before surgery) offers the widest range of options.
Options may include storing embryos before treatment begins and using a drug during therapy to help protect the ovaries from damage.
Read our perspective on fertility issues and pregnancy after breast cancer treatment (January 2012)*
Pregnancy and breast cancer survival
Having a child after breast cancer treatment does not appear to lower a woman’s chances for long-term survival [100-104].
Women who become pregnant after completing treatment for breast cancer may be healthier than those who do not. Therefore, findings from studies on this topic may be limited to these healthier women .
Your health care provider or a fertility specialist can discuss the best timing of a pregnancy for you based on your breast cancer treatment.
For a summary of research studies on pregnancy after breast cancer, visit the Breast Cancer Research section.
Read our perspective on pregnancy and breast cancer survival (January 2012).*
Some treatments for breast cancer can impact your ability to breastfeed.
If you had surgery to only one breast, breastfeeding from your untreated (opposite) breast should be fine.
Breastfeeding from the treated breast after a lumpectomy plus radiation therapy may be difficult. Both the surgery and the radiation can harm the tissue needed for breastfeeding.
While feeding from the treated breast is possible (and the milk is safe for the baby), it’s not common and the amount of milk produced may be greatly reduced [105-106].
Other concerns about having a child
Pregnancy after treatment doesn’t appear to lower survival, but some survivors may have other concerns about having a child.
Survivors with a strong family history of breast cancer may worry about passing on an inherited gene mutation that increases risk.
Women with a high risk of recurrence or those with metastatic breast cancer may worry about not living long enough to raise a child.
Ultimately, having a child is a personal decision. However, if you have any concerns, it may be helpful to talk with your health care provider and to seek support from your family, friends and other co-survivors.
Learn more about breast cancer concerns for family members.
Learn more about inherited genetic mutations and breast cancer risk.
Read our perspective on breast cancer in younger women
Support for young breast cancer survivors and their families
Young breast cancer survivors can feel isolated.
Because most women with breast cancer are older, it’s easy to feel alone, even among other survivors. A support group tailored to younger women with any type of cancer may be more helpful than one for breast cancer survivors.
Younger women need to be able to share their thoughts and feelings with women who are at the same stage of life and may have similar concerns about fertility and having children.
Some websites, such as the Young Survival Coalition, offer chat rooms and e-mail discussion groups for young survivors.
Living Beyond Breast Cancer offers telephone support from other young survivors (1-888-753-5222) and a series of videos for young survivors.
Learn more about social support for breast cancer survivors.
Support for families
Social support is also important for loved ones, especially spouses, partners and children.
Learn more about social support for spouses, partners and other family members.
Learn more about social support for children.
Susan G. Komen® Support Resources
*Please note, the information provided within Komen Perspectives articles is only current as of the date of posting. Therefore, some information may be out of date at this time.