How Breast Cancer Affects Fertility
What there is to know about having a baby when you have breast cancer.
Conception Concerns: Relapse, Harm to Offspring continued...
What is the prognosis for offspring who do inherit one of these genetic
mutations? "There does not appear to be an increased risk of childhood
cancers. However, these children are at a slightly higher risk for developing
ovarian and breast cancers," Domcheck says.
But genetics are only part of the picture.
"It's likely that an interplay between a collection of genes, when added
to certain environmental factors, results in breast cancer," Domcheck says.
Known environmental risk factors include moderate or heavy drinking (for women,
two or more drinks per day), having children later in life, and obesity.
Survivors also question the impact of cancer treatment on future offspring.
The news on this front is very encouraging. "There does not seem to be any
increased risk of birth defects if the woman who's gone through breast cancer
treatment gets pregnant. Even if the woman gets chemotherapy during pregnancy,
fetuses do surprisingly well," Domcheck tells WebMD.
Addressing Fertility With Your Doctor
Absorbing news of a breast cancer diagnosis as well as focusing on how it
might affect future fertility can be overwhelming. But because oncologists are
trained to provide the best cancer treatment available -- not necessarily in
light of fertility options -- patients interested in seeking information on
fertility need to be proactive.
"A patient needs to say to herself, 'What do I want in the future' and
ask the doctor, 'What's this [treatment] going to do with my future plans for
fertility?'" says Ann Partridge, MD, MPH, breast oncologist and instructor
at Harvard School of Medicine in Boston.
Others agree. "You need to have as much information as possible,"
says Karen Dow, PhD, RN, professor at University of Central Florida's School of
Nursing. She suggests getting a third or even fourth opinion, ideally from
doctors in different specialties -- oncology, reproductive endocrinology,
gynecology -- since each will bring a unique perspective unique to the
"It would be wonderful if, in the future, doctors would all come
together to say, 'Hey, here's what's out there, here's what it means to
you,'" Dow says. But for now, it's up to the patient to seek information on
her options, as early as possible.