After Breast Cancer Treatments

Treatment Side Effects and Fertility Outcomes

It is normal after treatment to continue to experience side effects like tiredness, sleeplessness and anxiety while you are recovering. It is important that you try to give yourself time to heal before you assess your fertility and options for pregnancy. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Regain your energy by eating well and drinking plenty of water. Do not try to change too many things at one time.

Exercise regularly and aim for 30 minutes at least three times per week.

If you are sexually active, talk to your doctor about birth control options that will work for you after treatment. Many forms of treatment and continued treatment, like hormone therapy, require you to use non-hormonal birth control.

Talk with your doctor if you begin to experience any menopausal symptoms.

Talk with your doctor about how long you should wait before trying to get pregnant.

Pregnancy After Treatment

It is important to be realistic about your options for building a family after treatment. Your reproductive system can be affected in many ways, and so, there are many outcomes that are possible:

Normal Fertility

After treatment, it is possible that there were no negative effects on your fertility, and you can have a baby naturally.

Fertility Followed by Early Menopause

Some treatments can cause damage to your eggs. If some of the eggs are damaged, you may continue to be fertile for a period of time, and then experience early menopause. Once you experience menopause, you are no longer fertile.

Compromised Fertility

If parts of the reproductive system are damaged during treatment, then you may have difficulty having a baby naturally. You may still be able to get pregnant with help from a fertility doctor.


If your eggs or reproductive system are badly damaged during treatment, you will go into menopause following treatment, and are no longer fertile.

Common Concerns About Pregnancy After Cancer Treatment:

Can pregnancy, miscarriage, or abortion increase my chance for recurrence of cancer?

Research has found that none of these increase a woman’s risk of cancer recurrence. In fact, there may be a “healthy mother effect” of treatment which shows that women who become pregnant after breast cancer are more likely cancer-free in the future. However, women who have had cancer have a slightly higher rate of miscarriage - most likely due to varied hormone levels after treatment.

If I get pregnant, will my children have a high risk of birth defects?

In general, children of breast cancer survivors do not have an increased risk of low-birth weight or birth defects. However, women who received abdominal (stomach area, not breast) radiation at a young age have a higher risk of birth defects, complicated pregnancy and low-birth weight infants. Some drug treatments can increase the risk for birth defects, and many doctors recommend you wait a certain length of time between treatment and pregnancy to lower that risk to a normal level. Your doctor can discuss the best timing of pregnancy based on your treatment.

If I get pregnant, will my children have a high risk of developing cancer?

Unless there is a known inherited cancer risk (such as BRCA gene mutation), children born to cancer survivors do not have a higher risk of developing cancer themselves.

What about breastfeeding?

After treatment, your ability to breastfeed will depend on what treatment you received and the location of any surgery or radiation. Surgery can affect your ability to breastfeed depending on how much tissue was removed. Women who have undergone mastectomy and/or reconstruction will not be able to breastfeed on that side. Breastfeeding may be difficult or not possible on the affected side if you received radiation. You may wish to talk to a breastfeeding expert (lactation consultant) if you choose to breastfeed. Most hospitals have these specialists on staff.

Louisiana's Young Breast Cancer Survivor Network

Young women with breast cancer face unique issues. And in the South, there are more young women overall facing breast cancer. In Louisiana, young African-American women are significantly more likely to suffer from breast cancer.

That is why SurviveDAT is here. Part of the Gulf States Young Breast Cancer Survivor Network, SurviveDAT's mission is to help improve the quality of life for young breast cancer survivors, as well as their family and friends, by providing continuing resources and support.

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