While many women who go through breast cancer do so in their 50’s and are no longer considering childbirth, women who are treated for breast cancer at a younger age are often left wondering whether or not they will be able to have children afterwards.
Breast cancer treatments often involve chemotherapy regimens that can affect ovarian function, but according to Daniel F. Hayes, an M.D. and clinical director of the breast cancer oncology program at the University of Michigan, many women can still safely conceive after breast cancer treatments.
Fertility is certainly a concern for women undergoing breast cancer treatment and Dr. Hayes points out that fertility is definitely something that should be discussed before treatment. "That discussion is going to be specific for each patient," he notes, "because it depends how old she is, whether she should get chemotherapy, what kind of chemotherapy, and whether she cares about maintaining fertility."
Ovarian function can be affected by multiple factors in breast cancer treatment—particularly chemotherapy. While most chemotherapies negatively affect ovarian function, younger women have a better chance of regaining their periods after treatment than their older counterparts who may be closer to menopause.
Other therapies that affect fertility are the newer hormone-based therapies, which are often given for up to five years. To become pregnant, women would have to stop taking the hormone therapy for a period of time before conception. Dr. Hayes discourages this course however, because, he says, the benefits of the therapy are so great.
Studies have shown that there should be little worry that breast cancer treatment therapies have an adverse effect on the newborn children. The risk of birth defects or miscarriages was not shown to be elevated among women who have undergone chemotherapy.
Some Breast Cancer Facts
- Number of American breast cancer diagnosis in 2007: 180,510
- U.S. deaths from breast cancer in 2007: 40,910
- Breast cancer is the #3 leading cause of female deaths in the United States.
- With early detection, breast cancer can be cured in 80 percent of women.
- It is recommended that women over 50 get a mammogram every 12 months.
- Never ignore a lump or change in the look or feel of your breast.