Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier
WebMD

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine
WebMD

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    Community

    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Select An Article

Protecting Fertility During Breast Cancer Treatment

Font Size
A
A
A

Many people with breast cancer get chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Both of these treatments can affect your fertility.

If you’d like to have children, be sure to tell your doctor before you begin breast cancer treatment. It’s an important conversation to have. Ask questions about your specific treatment plan.

Recommended Related to Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Clothing: Bras, Scarves, Accessories, and More

When you're first diagnosed with breast cancer, all you can think about is "Am I going to die?" But as you begin to learn to live with your cancer diagnosis, you start to think about other things, like "What am I going to look like bald?" It may sound frivolous, but ask any breast cancer survivor and she'll tell you that she thought a lot about whether to splurge on that real human hair wig or what she'd look like in a swimsuit. Feeling good about how you look is an important part of feeling good...

Read the Breast Cancer Clothing: Bras, Scarves, Accessories, and More article > >

How Does Treatment Affect Fertility?

Chemotherapy uses medicine to kill cancer cells. These medicines also hurt some healthy cells, including those that make eggs. There’s no way to protect your ovaries completely during chemotherapy. The type of drugs used, the length of treatment, and a person's age all affect the impact on fertility. For some, the effect of chemotherapy is temporary.

Radiation therapy treats the cancer with radiation or radioactive substances. The potential for fertility problems from radiation aren’t as high as with chemotherapy. The radiation beams only target the affected area, away from reproductive organs. But the beams may pass through healthy tissues and organs and cause infertility. Sometimes the infertility is temporary.

Breast cancer treatment can lower your sex drive and can lessen the chances of fertility. Hormone changes, fatigue, nausea, and self-image can also lower your sexual desire.

Can Fertility Be Preserved After Treatment?

There are things you can do to increase your chance of having children later. These include:

Cryopreservation, the process of freezing and storing fertilized eggs (called embryos) for later use. Your embryos can be implanted in your womb after you recover from treatment or in a surrogate (a woman who carries the baby for you). Unfertilized eggs are more delicate and can be easily damaged during the freezing process, so preserving them is less effective.

Taking less toxic chemotherapy drugs. Some drugs may cause less damage to your reproductive organs, but they may also be less effective at treating your breast cancer. Your oncologist can determine if a less toxic drug may work for you.

Hormonal suppression is a method that spares the reproductive system. This approach uses hormones to temporarily shut down your body's production of eggs. This process seems to protect the cells that develop into eggs from damage during breast cancer treatment.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on July 25, 2015
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
 
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
 
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
VIDEO
Resolved To Quit Smoking
SLIDESHOW
 
Woman getting mammogram
Article
Screening Tests for Women
SLIDESHOW
 
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
serious woman
Article
 
what is your cancer risk
HEALTH CHECK
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow
SLIDESHOW