comscoreGiving Birth After Breast Cancer Doesn’t Affect Survival

Giving Birth After Breast Cancer Doesn’t Affect Survival

Having a baby after completing treatment for early-stage breast cancer doesn’t negatively affect overall survival.
Jul 12, 2022.
 

Having a baby after completing treatment for early-stage breast cancer doesn’t negatively affect overall survival, according to a study.

Overall survival is how long a person lives, whether or not the cancer comes back.

The research was presented on July 5, 2022, at the 38th meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE). Read the abstract of “Age at diagnosis, previous pregnancy and interval to pregnancy influence survival after breast cancer in women with a subsequent live birth.”

 

Pregnancy after breast cancer

During pregnancy, levels of estrogen and progesterone hormones increase. Some doctors are concerned that these higher hormone levels could cause early-stage hormone receptor-positive breast cancer to come back (recur), which could reduce overall survival.

Having children after a breast cancer diagnosis may be a critical issue for anyone who is diagnosed before menopause.

“Pregnancy-related issues are of high importance for our young breast cancer patients,” study author Matteo Lambertini, MD, PhD, of the University of Genoa and Policlinico San Martino Hospital in Italy, told Breastcancer.org in a past interview. Much of Dr. Lambertini’s research focuses on pregnancy and fertility issues in women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. “There are still a lot of misconceptions among physicians about the safety of pregnancy after breast cancer that we are trying to dispel with our research that supports the safety of these pregnancies.”

 

About the study

The researchers used information in the Scottish Cancer Registry to identify 5,181 women younger than 40 who were diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer between 1981 and 2017. The researchers then looked in the Scottish maternity databases to figure out how many of the women gave birth after being diagnosed with breast cancer. The researchers included pregnancies through the end of 2018.

Overall, the researchers identified 290 women who gave birth after breast cancer and included them in the analysis.

The researchers found that:

  • women who gave birth after breast cancer actually had better overall survival than women who didn’t give birth after breast cancer

  • women who got pregnant for the first time after breast cancer had better overall survival than women who got pregnant for the first time before being diagnosed with breast cancer

  • women who were younger when they were diagnosed with breast cancer and then had a child after breast cancer had better overall survival than women who were older when they were diagnosed with breast cancer and then had a child after completing treatment

“This analysis shows that having a baby after breast cancer doesn’t have a negative impact on survival,” lead author Richard Anderson, PhD, MD, head of the Section of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Edinburgh, said in a statement. “It provides reassurance for the growing number of women who want to start or complete their families after breast cancer treatment.”

 

What this means for you

If you’ve been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer at a young age and want to have children after completing treatment, this study offers very reassuring results. Having a baby after breast cancer does not have a negative effect on your overall survival.

If you’re concerned about having children after breast cancer, it’s important to know that one of the most critical things you can do as you’re planning your breast cancer treatment is to talk with your doctor about your fertility options. Research shows that doctors often don’t provide enough information about what can happen to fertility with different breast cancer treatments, and most doctors don’t direct patients to fertility specialists for counseling before treatment begins. This might happen, in part, because some doctors have concerns about the safety of pregnancy after breast cancer treatment. If your doctor doesn’t bring up the subject, you may have to be your own best advocate and start the discussion.

There are a number of fertility-preservation options, including taking medicine to temporarily shut down your ovaries during chemotherapy and harvesting mature eggs from your ovaries before treatment starts.

The most important thing to do is to talk to your doctor about fertility as you’re planning your treatment.

Learn about Fertility and Pregnancy Issues.

Written by: Jamie DePolo, senior editor

— Last updated on July 17, 2022, 7:21 PM

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