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Effects of breast cancer treatment on fertility

Surgery or radiotherapy to the ovaries and fertility

Surgery and/or radiotherapy to the ovaries causes permanent infertility.

If a woman has her ovaries removed by surgery, or if she has radiotherapy to the ovaries, she will no longer be able to have children naturally.

Chemotherapy and fertility

Some chemotherapy drugs can cause a woman to become infertile.

Some women (usually women under 35 years) find that their periods return once chemotherapy finishes. However, this doesn’t mean that they are able to have children.

The effect of chemotherapy on fertility depends on a number of things, including the woman’s age and the type of drugs she receives. These effects can also vary between different women of the same age.

Hormonal therapies and fertility

Treatment with hormonal therapies (endocrine therapies) doesn’t cause infertility. However, a woman’s fertility may fall naturally while taking hormonal therapies. Most hormonal therapies for breast cancer are given for 5 years. After 5 years, a woman’s fertility will have fallen naturally because she’s older.

Although hormonal therapies for breast cancer can cause menstrual periods to stop, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a woman can’t become pregnant while taking hormonal therapies. Women who are sexually active while taking tamoxifen should use effective contraception if they don’t wish to become pregnant during this time.

Treatments for breast cancer may reduce fertility temporarily or permanently. However, this doesn’t mean it’s impossible to become pregnant during or after treatment.

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