This week, TV personality Giuliana Rancic announced she is having a baby, via gestational surrogate. After years of trying to conceive through in vitro fertilization, a diagnosis of breast cancer almost removed all hopes of having a biological child. This raises the question -- is pregnancy safe after a breast cancer diagnosis? Susan G. Komen for the Cure posted the results of a study authored by H. Azim Jr and L. Emeye, titled "Pregnancy following estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer is safe -- results from a large multi-center case-control study." The study was presented at the eighth European Breast Cancer Conference in March 2012 and it concluded that pregnancy after breast cancer is safe.
Pregnancy and breast cancer
The common recommendation to women who have breast cancer is not to get pregnant for three to five years after treatment. Estrogen-positive breast cancer is the most common type of breast cancer. This means that the cancer uses estrogen to grow and reproduce. Pregnancy causes a surge of estrogen in the body, therefore physicians recommend that patients wait in order to reduce the risk of a recurrence.
Another problem is chemotherapy. Some chemotherapy drugs can put a woman into early menopause. Depending on her age, menopause may or may not reverse when treatment is finished.
Tamoxifen blocks breast cancer from feeding on estrogen. The medication's FDA label states that you should not become pregnant while on Tamoxifen or for two months after you stop taking it. The normal course of treatment with Tamoxifen is five years.
The above-mentioned study concluded that it is safe for women with breast cancer to conceive after treatment. The study followed 333 women who became pregnant after treatment and 874 women who did not. Women in the study were between the ages of 21 and 48, with the average age being 34. It was concluded that the risk of recurrence was slightly less in the group of women who became pregnant within two years of breast cancer treatment. This is an unexpected result and it requires more study to determine why the risk was reduced. It did not matter if the women had estrogen-positive or estrogen-negative breast cancer.
Deciding to have a baby is a very personal decision. After a breast cancer diagnosis, a woman should make the decision to conceive only after having an informed discussion with her doctor. For many women, it is safe to conceive after treatment.
Lynda Altman is currently receiving treatment for a type of breast cancer called invasive ductal carcinoma. She writes a series for Yahoo! Shine called "My Battle with Breast Cancer."
- breast cancer
- breast cancer treatment