Pregnancy after breast cancer does not increase chance of recurrence

Findings from a retrospective study of 1,200 women provide reassurance to breast cancer survivors who are contemplating pregnancy. In the study, women who became pregnant after an early breast cancer diagnosis, including those with estrogen receptor (ER)-positive tumors, did not have a higher chance of cancer recurrence and death than those who did not become pregnant.

The study will be featured in a press briefing today and presented at the 2017 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women of reproductive age. Taking into account current trends toward delaying childbearing, breast cancer in young women may occur before the completion of reproductive plans. Although half of young women with newly diagnosed breast cancer report interest in having children, less than 10% become pregnant after treatment.1 In fact, of all cancer survivors, breast cancer survivors are the least likely to have a baby after diagnosis.

Doctors and patients have long been concerned that pregnancy could increase the chance of breast cancer recurrence, particularly for women with ER-positive disease. Because ER-positive breast cancer is fueled by estrogen, the fear is that hormone levels during pregnancy could coax any occult cancer cells — those that may remain in the body after treatment — to grow.

Another concern regarding pregnancy in women with ER-positive cancer is the need to interrupt adjuvant (post-surgery) hormone therapy before trying to achieve a pregnancy. Such hormone therapy helps prevent cancer recurrence, and it is recommended that women receive it for at least 5 years and in some cases up to 10 years. “Our findings confirm that pregnancy after breast cancer should not be discouraged, even for women with ER-positive cancer,” said lead study author Matteo Lambertini, MD, a medical oncologist and ESMO fellow at the Institut Jules Bordet in Brussels, Belgium. “However, when deciding how long to wait before becoming pregnant, patients and doctors should consider each woman’s personal risk for recurrence, particularly for women who need adjuvant hormone therapy.”

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