Most women of childbearing age who have been treated for cancer and are able to conceive (are fertile) can go on to have normal pregnancies and healthy babies. Women should be able to become pregnant if treatment did not affect the ovaries or uterus. Before you try to become pregnant, talk with your oncologist about your medical readiness for pregnancy. You may also want to consult with a reproductive endocrinologist for a fertility assessment.
Even though some drugs used to treat cancer, such as imatinib, are not usually associated with infertility, they are not recommended to be taken by women who are pregnant. Patients, however, should not stop medication without medical advice. A woman who is taking imatinib or any other cancer drug should consult her oncologist before trying to conceive or if she thinks she is pregnant.
Health of Children of Cancer Survivors
Most children born to cancer survivors are healthy. The percent of babies with birth defects born to cancer survivors is similar to that of babies born to parents without a cancer history. When a parent is diagnosed with cancer, it does not mean that his or her child is at a greater risk for cancer. Very few cases of cancer are inherited (passed on from a parent to a child). You may want to ask members of your healthcare team if your cancer is a type that can be passed on to your children. If it is, you may want to ask for a referral to a genetics counselor.
Talk with the doctor about whether you will be able to breastfeed after treatment. If you have had radiation to the breast area, your ability to produce milk may be affected. Some medicines should not be used while you are breastfeeding. Tell your healthcare team if you are starting treatment and are breastfeeding.
- Download or order The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s free fact sheet, Fertility Facts.