NEW research has discovered that having a baby following a breast cancer diagnosis does not negatively impact the chance of surviving the disease.
Many breast cancers are hormone-sensitive and tumour cell growth is stimulated by oestrogen and progesterone. As levels of both hormones increase during pregnancy, concerns have existed for many years around whether having a baby following diagnosis of, and treatment for, breast cancer could increase the chance of disease returning in future or reduce the overall chances of survival.
The study collated data from 5,181 females using the Scottish Cancer Registry and national maternity databases, all of whom were <40 years old and had been diagnosed between 1981 and 2017. Pregnancies to the end of 2018 were included, and survival was analysed up to the same date. A cohort of 290 females who had a live birth following a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment were found to have an overall higher survival rate than those who did not give birth after treatment was completed. Survival was also higher in those with a first-time pregnancy after breast cancer.
The study’s primary aim was to establish whether survival chances were altered after a live birth following breast cancer. Factors influencing this were also examined, from age at diagnosis and whether the patient had undergone a previous pregnancy, to tumour stage.
Richard Anderson, Medical Research Council Centre for Reproductive Health, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, commented that the study’s findings provide a great deal of reassurance for females who develop breast cancer and want to become mothers in future. He commented: “This analysis shows that having a baby after breast cancer doesn’t have a negative impact on survival.”
The study concluded that survival following a breast cancer diagnosis is no less in younger females, those who have previously experienced pregnancy, and those who have the hormone-receptor positive breast cancer type.
Data still needs to be gathered, which will better establish if certain cohorts of patients are likely to be affected. Researchers are aware that a large number of patients will not have had children when diagnosed with breast cancer, particularly as the average age of childbearing has been increasing in recent decades.