Research involving more than 1,200 survivors shows childbearing has no effect on breast cancer recurrence
Younger breast cancer survivors got a shot of good news last week: Pregnancy doesn’t appear to increase the chances their disease will recur, a new study suggests.
“Our findings confirm that pregnancy after breast cancer should not be discouraged, even for women with ER-positive [estrogen-sensitive] cancer,” said study author Matteo Lambertini, M.D., a medical oncologist at the Institut Jules Bordet, in Brussels.
Dr. Lambertini’s team tracked outcomes for more than 1,200 breast cancer survivors, and the research showed those who became pregnant didn’t have any higher risk of cancer returning and death over an average of 10 years follow-up than women who didn’t get pregnant.
The findings held even for women who had estrogen receptor-positive tumors.
It has long been believed that ER-positive breast cancer, fueled by increased levels of the hormone estrogen, could trigger the growth of cancer cells lingering in the body after treatment if a woman becomes pregnant.
But the new study’s findings may help put fears to rest that pregnancy might raise the chance of breast cancer’s return, even for women with ER-positive cancers.
But researchers cautioned that women with ER-positive cancer need to discontinue any post-surgery hormone therapy if they are trying to get conceive. This hormone therapy helps prevent cancer recurrence, and oncologists typically recommend a five-year course (up to 10 years in some cases) of it to women with ER-positive cancers.
“When deciding how long to wait before becoming pregnant, patients and doctors should consider each woman’s personal risk for recurrence,” Dr. Lambertini said, “particularly for women who need adjuvant hormone therapy.”
Researchers presented the study findings last week in Chicago at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Results are considered preliminary until they’ve been published in a peer-reviewed journal.