Per the National Breast Cancer Foundation, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a campaign that comes around yearly to increase awareness of how breast cancer impacts women. For 2022, the goal is to make sure that women collectively have access to those essential screenings and the support they deserve when it comes to breast health This year’s motto is that when we RISE — we Rally in Screening Everyone. And while breast cancer can be scary and daunting, our Idaho Fertility Center team supports our sisters in navigating their journey to wellness.
Breast Cancer and Fertility
According to the American Cancer Society, it seems that breast cancer is most often found in older women. But for younger women who have won the battle with breast cancer and want to bear children, you still can! There are lots of women who can conceive after undergoing breast cancer treatment even if certain cancer treatments can make conception more difficult. One example is chemotherapy which can negatively impact your ovaries, causing immediate or delayed infertility for a while. So if you are planning to have children eventually you should speak with your doctor before undergoing breast cancer treatment.
If you have succeeded in treating breast cancer into remission, you will generally be advised to hold off getting pregnant for at least two years. By that time if the cancer was to come back, you would know it, and not having to deal with it is one less thing you’ll have to worry about. Factors that can determine your outcome include how old you are, how much you want to experience additional pregnancies, the type of breast cancer you had and if your cancer can come back.
Some women wonder if pregnancy or breastfeeding could make the cancer return. This is a good question, as breast cancers are typically sensitive to estrogen, and it’s reasonable to assume that high hormone levels from pregnancy may increase the risk of cancer returning but studies have not shown this to be the case!
Breastfeeding and Breast Cancer
When it comes to breastfeeding after completing breast cancer treatment with breast surgery and/or radiation, you might struggle to breastfeed as milk production can be lowered or breastfeeding might be painful and problematic for your baby to latch on properly.
But this doesn’t happen to everyone, so you may still be one of those who can breastfeed successfully. Just remember any drugs you take to treat breast cancer can be passed to your baby via your breastmilk. When it comes to breastfeeding, some women aren’t able to, after their breast cancer treatment, while others still can without causing breast cancer to return. In fact, women who breastfeed for a year or more are less likely to develop breast cancer.
While having beaten breast cancer might lead to a risk of potential pregnancy complications like pre-term delivery, a low-birth-weight baby and delivery via a cesarean section (C-section), your past breast cancer does not directly affect your baby, so no higher rate of birth defects or other long-term health concerns for your baby. It is possible for breast cancer treatment like chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy or immunotherapy can affect your developing fetus. It’s best to wait until these treatments are finished before trying to become pregnant.
This October, if you have or have had breast cancer in your past, and are seeking to conceive, our Idaho Fertility Center team is here to help. Our skilled Reproductive Endocrinologists in Idaho Falls, ID, can speak with you about fertility and how breast cancer affects fertility. We can counsel you on the best approach to planning your pregnancy! Call 208-529-2019 today!
Read One Woman’s Story:
Fertility After Breast Cancer: Balancing Hope & Disappointment
Pregnancy After Breast Cancer