Making Decisions About Protecting Fertility
If you are premenopausal (still having menstrual periods), breast cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and hormonal therapy can affect your fertility. This may make it harder to become pregnant after treatment ends.
You might not be thinking about having a family at the time of your diagnosis, but that’s the best time to talk with your partner, family, and healthcare team about future fertility.
Even if you don’t know whether you want to have a child or children in the future, taking steps now can help you keep your options open. If you’re already in treatment or beyond, you can still discuss your options now.
Talking about fertility and family building with those close to you, especially your partner and close family members, can be challenging. Communication is key, but you and your loved ones might not know how to talk about fertility concerns. It can feel overwhelming, especially if it’s not something you’ve discussed before, you’re not sure what your partner wants, or even what you want for yourself.
Talking about it can help you discuss your needs and create a plan. Try to start the conversation as soon as possible after diagnosis. If you don’t feel comfortable, a support group or a counselor might be able to give you tips.
Ask yourself, is there a possibility I might want to have children in the future (even if I’m not sure right now or I do not have a partner)? Would I be open to freezing eggs or embryos? You may also want to ask:
- If I do not freeze eggs or embryos and have premature menopause, would I consider fertility treatments or having a baby using donor eggs?
- If I’m unable to carry a pregnancy, would I consider having a gestational carrier do it for me?
- Am I open to surrogacy?
- Am I open to adoption as another route to parenthood?
As early as you can — before breast cancer treatment begins, if possible — talk with your oncologist about your interest in becoming pregnant after treatment. Your providers may refer you to a reproductive endocrinologist (fertility specialist) to discuss your family planning options.
Though you may be scared or anxious, try to speak openly. Share your concerns, feelings, and knowledge of your body. Providers should give you the information you need and ask for your opinion. You have the right to ask questions, agree or disagree, and make your own decisions.
Consider asking these questions, along with others that may be important to you:
- What is my prognosis (outlook for future impact of breast cancer) and any ongoing treatment I might need?
- How will the recommended breast cancer treatment affect my fertility?
- Can I postpone treatment long enough (2 to 6 weeks) to have my eggs taken for future use?
- What methods might help me preserve my fertility?
- What are the chances at my age that I will be able to become pregnant after breast cancer treatment?
- If I’ve already had some treatment, what can I do to help my fertility?
- What are my options if I go into menopause?
- How much will assisted reproduction (fertility) procedures cost?
For more information, go to our section on protecting fertility during treatment.