Fertility and Breast Cancer: 5 things you should know

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A breast cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. Many young women with breast cancer may wonder how cancer and its treatment will affect their ability to become pregnant. The truth is many women are able to have children after breast cancer treatment.  

Here’s what you need to know: 

How will treatment affect my fertility? 

Several treatments can affect your ability to have children. Some chemotherapy medications can damage the eggs that are in your ovaries. Hormonal treatment, which often lasts for five to 10 years, may cause birth defects. Women undergoing this treatment should not try to become pregnant. Talk to your doctor about your options. 

What are my options for protecting my ability to have kids? 

Medically freezing your eggs is one way to ensure your eggs are protected. Another option is to have your eggs fertilized and then freeze the resulting embryos. It’s important to talk to your doctor about your fertility options before you start treatment. 

What about breastfeeding? 

Nursing after breast cancer treatment is possible for many women. If you had a lumpectomy, you may still be able to produce milk from the affected breast. If you had a single mastectomy, you could nurse from the other breast. If you had radiation, you may still be able to breastfeed unless there is damage to the milk ducts. Talk to your doctor about what’s safe if you plan to breastfeed after breast cancer treatment.  

Can I pass breast cancer to my child? 

Cancer does not pass to a baby in the womb, and there is no evidence that breast cancer will affect a baby’s development. But having a mother with breast cancer does increase a child’s risk of developing breast cancer as an adult. Consider genetic testing and counseling to learn more.  

Where can I find a fertility specialist? 

There are several fertility clinics in Maryland. Your breast cancer treatment team can help you find a reproductive specialist near you. 


Young Joo Lee, MD, is the medical director of Breast Medical Oncology and Integrative Medicine at Luminis Health Anne Arundel Medical Center. To make an appointment with Dr. Lee, call 443-481-4884.