Q: I'm in remission from cancer. Is there anything I need to know before I get pregnant?

A: Your ability to conceive and have a safe, healthy pregnancy will depend largely on where your cancer was, the type of treatment you received, and any long-term effects the disease may have had.

The first issue you face is conception. Depending on the type of cancer you had, your doctor may ask you to wait anywhere from three to five years before trying to conceive. This is especially important for survivors of hormone-dependent cancers, like breast cancer, since the drugs you may need to help you get pregnant boost estrogen levels and can raise your risk of your cancer coming back. If you received chemotherapy or radiation treatment and stopped menstruating as a result, you may need donor eggs to conceive.

Once you become pregnant, it's essential that you be closely monitored to watch for a cancer recurrence. These tests will vary depending on the type of cancer you had. For example, cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia will require regular blood tests. Tumor cancers, like breast cancer, require vigilant screening to look for new growths. If you're a breast cancer survivor, it's especially important to be aware of changes to your breasts that may occur naturally with pregnancy (lumps and bumps are common with shifting hormone levels) and alert your doctor to anything suspicious.

If you're worried that pregnancy may cause your cancer to come back, the good news is that the most recent research doesn't really confirm this. In fact, many cancer survivors are able to successfully conceive and have healthy, full-term pregnancies without compromising their health in the process.

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