New research increases hope for pregnancy after breast cancer

Gerald Iba
FILE - In this May 6, 2010 file photo, a radiologist uses a magnifying glass to check mammograms for breast cancer in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Young women with a history of breast cancer, may have one less thing to worry about. New research dispels previous warnings that breast cancer survivors shouldn’t get pregnant after their treatments.

Imagine sitting in the doctor’s office learning you have breast cancer and then in the same conversation being told you’ll likely be unable to become a mother. It’s a one-two punch that makes the diagnosis just that much harder to handle.

“I think I realized it was emotionally dangerous for me to go there. To think what if I can’t get pregnant,” Mara Winter said.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer at just 35 years old. As she fiercely fought the disease, she never let go of the idea that she wanted to be a mother.

“I just knew I was going to have a baby. No matter what, I was going to figure out how to have a baby. I wanted to be pregnant,” Winter said.

Despite removing eggs before chemotherapy, Winter conceived a child naturally a few years after remission. The pregnancy was something once thought unlikely by doctors, and even dangerous for Winter.

“They were often told if you get pregnant, you’re likely to have a recurrence of your breast cancer or a new breast cancer, less likely to survive. So even if fertility was really important, they were very dissuaded from attempted conception,” Dr. Kathy Miller, a medical oncologist at IU Health, said.

Miller said two new studies are changing that. One shows a majority of breast cancer survivors who tried to get pregnant did. The other study followed survivors for more than 12 years and shows those who had a child, like Winter, did not experience a higher rate of recurrence or death due to the increased hormone levels of pregnancy.

“There just simply was no harm and I think that gives great reassurance to our youngest patients who want children that it is still something that can be a part of their future,” Miller said.

For Winter, who now has a nearly five-year-old daughter, she hopes this research and her experience will encourage other women to fulfill their dream of motherhood.

“Realize that all things are possible and stay positive,” Winter said.”

As a breast cancer survivor, Winter said one of her proudest accomplishments is breast-feeding her daughter for 8 months on just one side.

Dr. Miller encourages survivors to talk with their doctor about this new research if considering pregnancy.

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