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Things to Consider Before Breast Cancer Treatment Begins

Fertility options

Having a child after treatment ends

Some breast cancer treatments can affect fertility.

If you wish to have a child after treatment ends, talk with your health care provider (and if possible, a fertility specialist) before treatment begins.

Learn more about fertility issues.


Talk with your health care provider about which vaccines you should get (and when) before starting treatment.

The American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has recommendations for vaccinations for adults who have been diagnosed with cancer.

Flu shot

If your treatment will occur during flu season (October to May), get a flu shot before treatment begins.

The flu shot protects against the 3 or 4 viruses most likely to be common each flu season.

To learn more, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommends all breast cancer patients, their caregivers, household family members and the general public get the COVID-19 vaccine and stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccines [262]. This includes booster shots and additional doses (for those with weakened immune systems) [262].

The mRNA vaccines and booster shots (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) are preferred by the CDC and the NCCN [262-263].

Learn more about COVID-19 and breast cancer.

Other vaccines

If you’re due for a vaccination such as shingles, talk with your health care provider about whether or not you should get the vaccine before you begin treatment for breast cancer.

Pap test

Chemotherapy can weaken your immune system, so women may want to get a gynecological exam before starting chemotherapy.

If you have a positive result on your Pap test (Pap smear), you’ll likely need a slightly invasive follow-up procedure. Because chemotherapy can weaken the immune system, it’s best to have the follow-up procedure before treatment begins.

Chemotherapy can also interfere with the results of a Pap test.

Dental visits

Chemotherapy can weaken your immune system. So, if possible, postpone routine dental visits until after chemotherapy is over. Sometimes dental work can cause an infection in your mouth. Infections can be harder to treat when your immune system is weakened by chemotherapy.

If you have dental work or a cleaning that can’t wait until after treatment ends, it’s best go to the dentist before chemotherapy begins.


In general, it’s safe to travel by plane, train or bus while undergoing chemotherapy.

However, chemotherapy weakens your immune system. If you travel while on chemotherapy, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often to try to avoid infection. You might consider wearing a face mask.

The CDC has information on travel and COVID-19.

Breast cancer and air travel

Susan G. Komen® wants to make sure people who have breast cancer are treated with respect and dignity.

When you travel by air, these steps may be helpful:

  • Arrive at the airport earlier than usual, so you have time to go through secondary screening if needed.
  • If you’re concerned about going through the body scanner for any reason, request a private pat-down screening.
  • If you choose, or are selected for, a pat-down screening, you may request a private screening away from public areas.
  • If you feel uncomfortable for any reason, it’s always OK to ask to talk with a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) supervisor.
  • If you feel comfortable, tell the TSA agent you are undergoing breast cancer treatment (and if you are wearing a breast prosthesis). If you prefer to give this information discreetly, the TSA has a notification card you can give to the agent. Find this card on the TSA website.
  • It’s strongly advised you pack your medications in carry-ons, rather than in checked luggage.

For those who wear a breast prosthesis:

  • You will not be asked to remove your breast prosthesis, but you may be asked to lift or lower clothing to show your breast prosthesis in a private screening area. It’s OK for a companion or other person you choose to go with you to the screening area. A disposable drape will be available upon request. If you have concerns, you can remove your prosthesis before you go through security and put it through the X-ray screening in your carry-on.
  • It’s strongly advised you pack your breast prosthesis (if not wearing it) in carry-ons, rather than in checked luggage.

For those who wear a scarf or other head covering:

  • If you wear a scarf or other head covering, you don’t have to remove the covering to pass through security. However, you may have to undergo a pat-down search of your head. In some cases, the TSA agent may then ask you to remove the scarf or head covering, but you may request a private screening away from public areas. It’s OK for a companion or other person you choose to go with you to the screening area.

For those who wear a compression sleeve:

  • You don’t need to remove your compression sleeve, but you may need to be screened with a hand-held metal detector and may need to be patted down.

If you have concerns about airline security screening, visit the TSA website.


Updated 04/09/24