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Hum Reprod Update. 2009 May-Jun;15(3):323-39. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmn064. Epub 2009 Jan 27.

Breast cancer in young women and its impact on reproductive function.

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  • 1School of Women's and Infants' Health, University of Western Australia, King Edward Memorial Hospital, 374 Bagot Road, Subiaco, WA 6008, Australia.



Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in developed countries, and 12% of breast cancer occurs in women 20-34 years. Survival from breast cancer has significantly improved, and the potential late effects of treatment and the impact on quality of life have become increasingly important. Young women constitute a minority of breast cancer patients, but commonly have distinct concerns and issues compared with older women, including queries regarding fertility, contraception and pregnancy. Further, they are more likely than older women to have questions regarding potential side effects of therapy and risk of relapse or a new primary. In addition, many will have symptoms associated with treatment and they present a management challenge. Reproductive medicine specialists and gynaecologists commonly see these women either shortly after initial diagnosis or following adjuvant therapy and should be aware of current management of breast cancer, the options for women at increased genetic risk, the prognosis of patients with early stage breast cancer and how adjuvant systemic treatments may impact reproductive function.


No systematic literature search was done. The review focuses on the current management of breast cancer in young women and the impact of treatment on reproductive function and subsequent management. With reference to key studies and meta-analyses, we highlight controversies and current unanswered questions regarding patient management.


Chemotherapy for breast cancer is likely to negatively impact on reproductive function. A number of interventions are available which may increase the likelihood of future successful pregnancy, but the relative safety of these interventions is not well established. For those who do conceive following breast cancer, there is no good evidence that pregnancy is detrimental to survival. We review current treatment; effects on reproductive function; preservation of fertility; contraception; pregnancy; breastfeeding and management of menopausal symptoms following breast cancer.


This paper provides an update on the management of breast cancer in young women and is targeted at reproductive medicine specialists and gynaecologists.

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