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Birth control and breast cancer

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If you were not in menopause before your breast cancer diagnosis and you are sexually active, it’s important to discuss birth control, or contraception, with your doctor.

During treatment, you should not become pregnant. Early in pregnancy, chemotherapy and hormonal therapy can harm a fetus and lead to birth defects.

Your periods may become irregular or stop for a time because of treatment, but you can still become pregnant.

Why birth control pills should not be used

Birth control pills are a type of hormonal contraception, so there is concern that it may impact the risk of cancer in the future. As a result, they are not recommended for women who have had breast cancer.

Birth control to use during treatment

Some non-hormonal birth control methods to consider:

  • Condoms. These thin sheaths of latex, lambskin, polyurethane, or polyisoprene fit snugly over a man’s erect penis.
    • If chemotherapy produces vaginal changes, such as narrowing, latex may be irritating and uncomfortable. Lambskin, polyurethane, or polyisoprene are thinner and may cause less discomfort. You can also apply lubricants to help reduce any discomfort.
  • Diaphragm. This birth control is a shallow silicone cup inserted in the vagina. To be effective, diaphragms must be used with a spermicide cream, gel, or jelly.
  • IUD. An intrauterine device, or IUD, is a small, T-shaped frame made of copper and plastic (ParaGard) or plastic alone (Mirena). It prevents sperm from fertilizing an egg. Not all IUDs are the same, so many sure to use one, like the ParaGard IUD, that does not contain hormones.

Pregnancy after treatment

If you want to get pregnant after breast cancer treatment, talk with your healthcare team as soon as possible about protecting your fertility. Timing is critical, so try to talk before you start any type of therapy.

Your team should talk with you about how chemotherapy and other treatments might affect your fertility. Ask to see a reproductive endocrinologist, a doctor who can explain ways to preserve or protect your fertility and help you plan for future pregnancies.

After treatment, ask your doctor how long you should wait before trying to safely become pregnant. There does not appear to be any increased risk of cancer recurrence if you have children.

 

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Reviewed and updated: August 5, 2019

Reviewed by: H. Irene Su MD

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Living Beyond Breast Cancer is a national nonprofit organization that seeks to create a world that understands there is more than one way to have breast cancer. To fulfill its mission of providing trusted information and a community of support to those impacted by the disease, Living Beyond Breast Cancer offers on-demand emotional, practical, and evidence-based content. For over 30 years, the organization has remained committed to creating a culture of acceptance — where sharing the diversity of the lived experience of breast cancer fosters self-advocacy and hope. For more information, learn more about our programs and services.

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