From choosing a prenatal vitamin to tracking your ovulation, the process of trying to conceive comes with a lot of questions. But if you have survived breast cancer, then your list of questions doesn’t look like the average woman’s. First and foremost on your mind is how your treatment might have affected your fertility, as well as any problems that might arise with a pregnancy. If you're wondering, “Can I get pregnant if I’m a breast cancer survivor?” experts have an answer.
“Yes, it’s possible for women to become pregnant after recovering from breast cancer,” says Dr. Shefali Shastri, a Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists at Reproductive Medicine Associates in New Jersey. “But it depends on the extent of the disease and how advanced the breast cancer was.”
For instance, she explains in an email interview with Romper, if the breast cancer was surgical and there was no radiation or chemotherapy, then a woman will likely be able to get pregnant and her fertility won’t be affected. Dr. Sunny Jun, the co-founder and co-medical director of The Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine in San Francisco, points out that if chemotherapy was used for treatment, then “certain types may be more detrimental to the ovaries than others. This may lead to irreversible damage of the ovarian tissue and ultimately cause premature ovarian failure in younger women,” Jun tells Romper in an email interview.
Both Shastri and Jun agree that a diminished ovarian reserve or premature ovarian failure are the main roadblocks women will run into when trying to get pregnant after having breast cancer. “In addition, the duration of treatment, which can be from five to 10 years, can significantly delay the woman’s childbearing age,” Jun says.
Both doctors also note that younger women are often able to cryopreserve eggs or embryos prior to undergoing chemotherapy, and may use them in the future after all treatments have been completed. As for those who have premature ovarian failure, Jun says under close monitoring with an oncologist, they may be able to utilize donor eggs to help conceive.
Above all, experts say, there is hope after the storm. Advancements in treatments and new perspectives on the safety of pregnancy after breast cancer has shifted the perspective on fertility after treatment — and the success stories are out there.
And that's something everyone can be happy to hope for.