Study Looks at Conception After Cancer

Two-thirds of childhood cancer survivors eventually conceived.


Pregnancy test image via Shutterstock.

Researchers at Dana-Farber and Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center have discovered that while women who have survived childhood cancer may face an increased risk for infertility, nearly two-thirds of those who tried to become pregnant for at least a year eventually conceived.

The study, published on July 13 in Lancet Oncology, is the first long-term, large-scale study of female childhood cancer survivors that looks specifically at infertility. Infertility is defined as attempting to conceive for a year or more without success, according to a report released about the findings. Interestingly, women who had survived childhood cancer were no less likely to conceive than the other women in the study, all of whom had been clinically defined as infertile for other reasons not including childhood cancer.

“Most women think that if they had cancer as a child, then they’ll never have children,” Lisa Diller, the senior author of the study, said in the report. Diller is the Chief Medical Officer of Dana-Farber and Boston Children’s and the medical director of the David B. Perini, Jr. Quality of Life Clinic at Dana-Farber.

Only 12.9 of the women in the study who had survived childhood cancer were affected by infertility after trying to conceive for at least a year. A comparison group was made up of women whose sisters had been childhood cancer survivors but who were, themselves, unaffected by cancer. Among those women, there was a 10.8 percent occurrence of infertility, which was not largely different from the statistics of the first group of cancer survivors.

The study found that among the women who tried to conceive for at least a year, 64 percent of them conceived after another six months, whether they had survived childhood cancer or not. The report also mentioned that while women who have survived childhood cancer may be at a greater risk for infertility initially, they are not at a greater risk for stillbirths or miscarriages.