Fertility after breast cancer treatment

Last Modified: May 2, 2004

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Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
I was diagnosed with hormone negative, stage II breast cancer at age 29. I was treated with CEF ( cyclophosphamide, epirubicin and fluorouracil) chemotherapy and then radiation. I am now 32 and was considering getting pregnant. I have heard chemotherapy may harm the ovaries or hormone production. Is there a test to see if harm was done? Will the harm cause birth defects or just problems conceiving? My periods have been normal - does this mean that I shouldn't be worried and that no precautions are necessary? I can’t seem to be able to find this information anywhere. 

Answer

Linda Jacobs, PhD, CRNP, AOCN, BC, Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, responds:

There have been numerous studies and no evidence that chemotherapy causes birth defects in children conceived after treatment has been completed. If your periods are regular and your oncologist is okay with it or at least explained any risks from a cancer standpoint, you should not have any problems with fertility. You should verify this with your oncologist to make sure there are not any specific reasons why you should not get pregnant.

However, my concern would be hereditary risk and whether or not you have been offered genetic testing in light of your age? You developed breast cancer at an early age and it is important you meet with a genetic counselor to help identify any genetic risks.



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