The decision to have a baby is often difficult for breast cancer survivors. This is because there are so many factors that come into play, including fertility issues and pregnancy safety.
While it is generally safe to get pregnant following cancer treatment, your doctor may advise you to wait for a period of time. How long depends upon the type and stage of your breast cancer and the treatment you received. Male breast cancer survivors may also be advised to wait for a period of time before fathering a child.
Another concern is whether your body can safely handle pregnancy. Your treatment may have caused damage to your heart or lungs. These problems can worsen with the stress of pregnancy.
Speak with a member of your UPMC Breast Care Center team and your ob/gyn if you are thinking about getting pregnant after breast cancer treatment.
Some cancer treatments can make it difficult or impossible for you to have children. At UPMC Breast Care Center we understand the range of emotions that can come with this realization. We can connect you with resources to help you cope with these feelings. We can also help you look into other ways to start or expand your family.
Some of these options include:
- Assisted Reproduction
Age or cancer treatment may have reduced your egg reserve. In this case, you may be able to get pregnant through in vitro fertilization (IVF). During IVF, your (or your donor’s) eggs are fertilized with sperm outside the body. These fertilized eggs are called embryos. The embryos can be transferred into your body at a later date to develop into a baby. Your uterus must be healthy for IVF to be successful. You will also have to take hormones before and after the procedure.
- Donor Eggs
You may be able to use another woman’s eggs to get pregnant. These eggs are fertilized in a laboratory with the sperm of your partner or a donor using IVF techniques. By law, all donors are screened for psychological issues, medical conditions and potential genetic diseases before they are allowed to donate eggs.
- Donor Sperm
A man who did not bank sperm before cancer treatment may use donor sperm to become a father. This sperm is screened for infectious diseases and is typically donated anonymously through a sperm bank. The physical traits of the donor are usually recorded.
- Testicular Sperm Extraction/Epididymal Sperm Extraction
During this procedure a small amount of tissue is removed from the testicle. It is examined for mature sperm, which can be frozen or used immediately for IVF. This procedure is for men who do not have mature sperm in their semen.
- Donor Embryos
A couple may donate any extra embryos after infertility treatment. These embryos are transferred into the uterus of a woman who wants a child. As with IVF, the woman will have to take hormones before or after the embryos are inserted. This procedure allows a woman with a healthy uterus to experience pregnancy. By law, the couple donating the embryos must be screened for psychological issues, medical conditions and potential genetic diseases.
- Surrogacy and Gestational Carriers
You may choose to have another woman carry your baby if pregnancy puts your health at risk. This woman is called a surrogate if she becomes pregnant through artificial insemination using her eggs and your partner’s sperm. If an embryo from you and your partner is implanted into the woman, she is called a gestational carrier. Consult with an attorney if you are considering either option.
You may prefer to adopt a child if you are unable to have your own. This is the permanent, legal transfer of parental rights of a child from the biological parents to another couple or individual. Cancer survivors are generally allowed to adopt, though some agencies will require a letter from your doctor verifying good health. Other agencies may want you to wait for a period of time following treatment
Need more information?
PinnacleHealth Breast Care Center
Located at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at the Rocco and Nancy Ortenzio Cancer Pavilion
2035 Technology Parkway
Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
PinnacleHealth Breast Care Center
Located at Medical Sciences Pavilion
4300 Londonderry Road
Harrisburg, PA 17109