Fertility and Pregnancy During Breast Cancer Treatment

Fertility and Pregnancy During Breast Cancer Treatment
11 Mar 2024
9 minutes
Table Of Content
Fertility and Pregnancy During Breast Cancer Treatment

    Hello everyone! Let us welcome you all to another episode of the cancer blog. This time, we are here to shed light on a less-spoken topic about the widely prevalent cancer around the globe- breast cancer and its impact on fertility and pregnancy. Being diagnosed with breast cancer can be an overwhelming experience, accompanied by a whirlwind of emotions and decisions. The ultimate pain of experiencing cancer is not expressed by words but by adding fuel to the existing fire; patients with breast cancer experience the blaze's aftermath and the impact. For many women of childbearing age, one of the most pressing concerns is the impact of cancer treatment on their fertility and the possibility of future pregnancy.


    Breast cancer 


    Breast cancer is caused by abnormal division of cells present in breasts. The cells grow rapidly and are out of control when compared to the healthy cells, leading to the formation of a lump or a tumor. The important cause for the development of breast cancer is the mutation of genes that cause abnormal cell division. Breast cancer has the ability to affect one or both breasts. The mutation can affect any cells present in the breasts.

    While breast cancer can originally evolve from varied parts of the breast, it can either develop from the milk-producing glands or in the ducts that connect with the nipple. In some cases, cancer can begin from the fatty tissues that are present in the breasts. About 2.3 million women are globally affected by breast cancer, which means about one in 29 females from India develop breast cancer during their lifetime. It is important to detect signs and early symptoms of breast cancer to reduce the complications. 

    Impact Of Breast Cancer Treatment On Fertility 


    The common treatment approaches for breast cancer include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormonal therapies. However, these treatment options come with the advantage of treating malignant tumors that are localized and spread metastatically; they also come with the risk that impacts the fertility of women.

    Chemotherapy drugs have the ability to affect the function of ovaries and reduce fertility and the ability to conceive naturally. Radiation therapy will affect the various organs like the pelvis and ovaries. The ultimate stress involved during the treatments and hormonal therapy will alter the level of estrogen and progesterone, which may disrupt the natural menstrual cycle or even induce early menopause


    Preserving fertility


    Stop worrying; we will bring a solution for you!  

    There are many ways of safeguarding your fertility before you start the treatment for breast cancer. These options are effective, serve their purpose, and provide hope to the patients in being able to conceive. 

    1. Freezing: 

    These techniques include extracting eggs from the ovaries and stimulating the hormones with injections spaced a few weeks apart. Immediately after fertilization, the eggs can be cryopreserved or combined with sperm to create embryos.

    2. Cryopreservation: 

    This method involves removing and freezing the part of the ovary or the whole. This approach works best for young girls who have not yet entered puberty or for women who need to begin cancer therapy right away. For males who have not yet reached puberty, testicular tissue cryopreservation may also be an option.


    Risk of breast cancer treatment on pregnancy 


    The most frequent malignancy discovered during pregnancy is breast cancer. It impacts roughly 1 in 3,000 expectant mothers. The detection of cancer during the phase of pregnancy can also be challenging and tends to develop several complications. 

    The treatment of breast cancer involves the multifaceted approach of drugs that includes chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, and hormonal therapy. 

    Many of the drugs used during cancer treatments are not safe to use in pregnancy.  They possess the risk to cause fetal harm and the development of abnormalities. Chemotherapy drugs affect the function of ovaries and reduce the ability to conceive naturally. Radiation therapy will affect the various organs like the pelvis and ovaries essential for pregnancy. 

    Facing such a situation during pregnancy will be heart-shattering for every woman. However, it is essential to undergo a decision-making process that will determine both the future prospectus of you and your baby. Keeping your emotions aside, it is important to speak with your healthcare provider and make a decision on delaying the pregnancy for treatment or vice versa. Navigating pregnancy during breast cancer will be emotionally challenging, and help from the support system is essential to cope with the stress and uncertainty they experience.


    Treating breast cancer during pregnancy: 


    Treatment of breast cancer during pregnancy depends on a wide variety of factors, like the stage and type of cancer, the gestational age of the fetus, and the overall health of the mother. There are three standard options of treatment available, which includes:

    Surgical options include modified radical mastectomy and breast-conserving surgery. These options involve the removal of tumor cells, normal cells surrounding the cancer cells, and sometimes the organ itself (breast, nipple, or areola)

    Radiation therapy sends high-energy rays to eradicate the cancer cells. External radiation therapy may be administered to women with late-stage (stage III or IV) breast cancer following the first three months of pregnancy, or if this is not feasible, radiation therapy may be postponed until after the baby is born.

    In most cases, chemotherapy is not administered during the first trimester of pregnancy. After this point, chemotherapy normally has no negative effects on the fetus. However, it may hasten labor or result in a low birth weight.

    Breastfeeding and breast cancer: 


    The decision to breastfeed can be difficult and emotionally challenging for women who have had breast cancer treatment. Although nursing is a natural and treasured part of motherhood, treatment procedures like surgery alter the anatomy of the breast and affect milk production; other therapies affect the supply of milk. 

    A variety of other methods, such as feeding from non-cancerous breasts, supplementing other types of milk, or effectively using donor breastmilk, can help improve a baby's overall health and development. 



    For women of childbearing age, breast cancer therapy can provide serious obstacles, especially in terms of fertility and pregnancy concerns. However, women with breast cancer can make educated decisions regarding their care while holding out hope for the future thanks to advancements in fertility preservation techniques and all-encompassing support from healthcare specialists. 

    Written by
    Dr. Thamizhakaran K SMedical Content Writer
    AboutThamizhakaran K S is a Medical Content writer at Mr.Med. He completed Doctor of pharmacy from Annamalai University in 2023. He has worked as clinical pharmacist intern at Government Cuddalore medical college and hospital. During internship he gained expertise on clinical pharmacology, pharmacotherapeutics and clinical research. He also published an research project in International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Research. He has thorough knowledge on clinical trail methodologies and various pharmacovigilance guidelines. He possesses a strong interest in writing and uses his research skills to clearly communicate health information to the readers.
    Tags :Breast cancerFertility and breast cancerpregnancy after breast cancerbreastfeeding