Common concerns

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Do fertility drugs cause cancer?

For some fertility treatments, you will need to take extra hormones or stimulate your hormones. It’s still not known how safe this is for people with hormone-sensitive cancer. Discuss the potential risks of particular fertility treatments with your cancer or fertility specialist. Taking hormone receptor blockers during egg collection will help reduce the risks.

Should I have a child after I've had cancer?

This is a very individual decision. A cancer diagnosis is likely to affect the way you think and feel about having a child.

If you have a partner, you may want to discuss your family plans together. Fertility clinics often have counsellors who can talk through the pros and cons of your situation.

– Liam

How long should I wait to conceive after treatment?

This depends on many factors, including the type of cancer and type of treatment. Some specialists advise waiting two years after treatment ends. This may be to allow your body to recover, or to see if the cancer comes back during this time. It’s best to discuss the timing with your doctor.

Will having children cause the cancer to come back?

Research shows that pregnancy does not increase the chances of cancer coming back (recurring). However, studies have mainly focused on women with breast cancer. Research is continuing, so it’s best to discuss this issue with your specialist. For more information about pregnancy and cancer, see Fertility options for women, and Fertility options for men.

Studies to date also suggest that survival rates for people who have children after cancer treatment are no different from those who don’t have children after treatment.

Do children of cancer survivors have more health problems?

Current research suggests that children born to cancer survivors (after treatment has ended) are no more likely to have health problems than the general population.

Studies show that if one or both parents have a history of cancer, their child is at no greater risk of getting cancer than anyone else. The exception is if cancer runs in the family through an inherited syndrome.

Your fertility specialist or genetic counsellor is the most qualified person to give you up-to-date information about the risks of particular fertility treatments.

What if I was already pregnant at diagnosis?

Being diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy is rare – about one in 1000 women are affected.

It may still be possible to have cancer treatment during pregnancy. The potential risks and benefits need to be discussed before treatment begins. Sometimes treatment can be delayed until after the birth. If necessary, chemotherapy can be safely used after the first trimester (12+ weeks).

Some women diagnosed with cancer in the early stages of pregnancy decide to terminate so they can immediately start treatment, while others who are diagnosed later in the pregnancy choose to deliver before the due date. Before making this decision, talk to your cancer specialist and obstetrician for information and support.

– Lily

Women wishing to breastfeed need to be aware that the drugs can be passed to the baby through the breastmilk and that it’s not possible to breastfeed during chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. For support, contact the Australian Breastfeeding Association on 1800 686 268.

Read more about being pregnant at diagnosis

This information was last reviewed in May 2016
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