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Fertility and Pregnancy FAQs

Updated May 10, 2010

I want to get pregnant. Is it okay to take tamoxifen for two years instead of the usual five, then stop taking it, have a baby and re-start tamoxifen afterwards?

I had regular periods before my treatment began. What are the chances that my ovaries will start working again?

Can I adopt after having breast cancer?

Q: I want to get pregnant. Is it okay to take tamoxifen for two years instead of the usual five, then stop taking it, have a baby and re-start tamoxifen afterwards?

A: You’re right to wait until after treatment to get pregnant. You should not try to become pregnant while on chemotherapy or taking tamoxifen or any other hormonal therapy. These medicines can seriously harm embryos and fetuses. Use barrier birth control (without hormones) while on tamoxifen.

Stopping tamoxifen means that you will stop benefiting from its ability to fight breast cancer. We know that women who take tamoxifen for five years do better than those who take it for only two or three years.

A regimen consisting of five years of continuous tamoxifen therapy has been tested and shown to be effective. Other plans are of unknown value. Do not stop taking tamoxifen without first consulting with your doctor or healthcare provider.

Q: I had regular periods before my treatment began. What are the chances that my ovaries will start working again?

A: Depending upon the type of chemotherapy you receive, you have a better chance of ovulating again after treatment if you’re under age 35. Women older than age 40 are at higher risk of losing ovarian function permanently.

If your periods haven’t returned after a year, there’s only about a 10 percent chance that they will.

If your periods return, you may be less fertile than you were before treatment. Chemotherapy can harm the eggs in your ovaries and reduce their number. This may make it difficult for you to become pregnant even if you’re menstruating regularly.

These resources may help:

Q: Can I adopt after having breast cancer?

A: Yes—adoption is another road to parenthood for women who have been treated for breast cancer. Both domestic (within your home country) and international adoptions are possible. Some agencies and foreign countries may be more accepting of your medical history than others.

Explore your options by researching online and in books. Attend a local adoption conference, if possible. Talk with other women who adopted after breast cancer. Learn what medical and personal information will be helpful for you to gather. Choose a home study agency and adoption agency or attorney carefully. It’s worth interviewing several to find ones that are experienced in helping prospective adoptive parents who have had cancer.

  • Learn more about adopting after treatment. "Adoption: Challenges and Solutions After Breast Cancer," in our Summer 2004 Insight newsletter, provides an overview of the adoption process and stories of three women affected by breast cancer who later adopted.

All FAQs reviewed by Clifford A. Hudis, MD

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