Effects of breast cancer treatments on fertility
Some treatments for breast cancer can affect your fertility (your ability to have children).
Once your cancer treatment has finished there is no reliable test to find out if you can still become pregnant. If your periods stop for a year or more, it’s more likely that your menopause will be permanent. If your menopause is permanent, you will be unable to get pregnant naturally.
If being able to have children is important for you, speak to your treatment team about fertility and family planning before starting treatment for breast cancer. Your oncologist may suggest that you see a fertility specialist to discuss your options.
Surgery or radiotherapy to the ovaries and fertility
Surgery and/or radiotherapy to the ovaries causes permanent infertility.
If a woman has her ovaries removed by surgery, or if she has radiotherapy to the ovaries, she will no longer be able to have children naturally.
Chemotherapy and fertility
Some chemotherapy drugs can cause a woman to become infertile.
Some women (usually women under 35 years) find that their periods return once chemotherapy finishes. However, this doesn’t mean that they are able to have children.
The effect of chemotherapy on fertility depends on a number of things, including the woman’s age and the type of drugs she receives. These effects can also vary between different women of the same age.
Hormonal therapies and fertility
Treatment with hormonal therapies (endocrine therapies) doesn’t cause infertility. However, a woman’s fertility may fall naturally while taking hormonal therapies. Most hormonal therapies for breast cancer are given for 5 years. After 5 years, a woman’s fertility will have fallen naturally because she’s older.
Although hormonal therapies for breast cancer can cause menstrual periods to stop, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a woman can’t become pregnant while taking hormonal therapies. Women who are sexually active while taking tamoxifen should use effective contraception if they don’t wish to become pregnant during this time.
Treatments for breast cancer may reduce fertility temporarily or permanently. However, this doesn’t mean it’s impossible to become pregnant during or after treatment.