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Cancer Survivor Fertility
Mitchell Rosen, MD and Ernest H. Rosenbaum, MD

Infertility has been a common problem for those who have had cancer and cancer therapy. In recent years, improvements in cancer treatments have been developed to both prolong life and reduce the risk of infertility. New treatment options are making fertility a possibility for many cancer survivors.

There is evidence to suggest that pregnancy after cancer treatment does not increase a breast cancer survivor's risk of recurrence or shorten her life. It is wise for breast cancer patients to wait two years after completing their cancer treatment before trying to conceive a child, as that is the highest risk period for breast cancer recurrence. An infertility consultation should be considered.

Steps can be taken before surgery, chemo or radiotherapy treatment to preserve fertility (sperm banking or egg preservation). Surgery and radiation therapy have not been shown to affect a breast cancer survivor's ability to conceive a child or to have a normal child as long as fertility is preserved. Chemotherapy, however, may cause amenorrhea (loss of periods) and an increased possibility of infertility. Breast cancer patients should consult with their physicians about their future pregnancy plans before starting cancer treatments.

The human reproductive system is complex and unique for both genders. The reproductive system is affected by many cancer related therapies with the end result of difficulty conceiving. Cancer therapy effects to fertility will depend on the patient's age, type of cancer, and method of treatment.

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First appeared September 27, 2009