Most people of childbearing age who have been treated for cancer and are able to conceive can go on to have low-risk pregnancies and healthy babies. Patients should be able to become pregnant if treatment did not affect their ovaries or uterus, and there are no other medical issues that may impact fertility. Before you try to become pregnant, talk with your treatment team about your medical readiness for pregnancy. You may also want to have a fertility assessment by consulting with a doctor called a “reproductive endocrinologist.”
Generally, patients are advised to wait for at least 2 years after the end of treatment before they try to become pregnant. This allows enough time for the patient to surpass the period of an early cancer recurrence and allows the body to recover from the effects of treatment. If the treatment has caused late effects that might make pregnancy more difficult, patients should consult a maternal-fetal medicine specialist prior to trying to become pregnant.
Even though some drugs used to treat cancer, such as imatinib (Gleevec®) or other, newer targeted therapies are not usually associated with infertility, they are not recommended for people who are pregnant. Patients, however, should not stop taking their medication without medical advice. A patient who is taking any cancer drug should consult their oncologist before trying to become pregnant. If you are receiving cancer treatment, and you think you might be pregnant, talk to your oncologist immediately.
Health of Children of Cancer Survivors
Most children born to cancer survivors are healthy. The percentage 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 always mean that their child is at a greater risk for cancer. Very few cases of cancer are caused by genetic mutations that are inherited (passed on from a parent to a child). You may want to ask members of your healthcare team if your cancer is either caused or linked to a genetic mutation that can be passed on to your children and increase their risk of cancer. If it is, you may want to ask for a referral to a genetic counselor.
Talk with the doctor about whether you will be able to breastfeed after treatment. If you have had radiation to the chest 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 either starting or restarting treatment and you are breastfeeding.
- Download or order The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s free fact sheet, Fertility Facts.