Your treatment management


Pregnancy, cancer, and family planning

Just so you are aware – the information on this page will talk a little bit about terminating a pregnancy (abortion).

People with cancer are advised not to get pregnant. This is because cancer treatments and scans can cause serious harm to an unborn baby. Although there are a few treatments for cancer that can be taken while pregnant, they carry a risk and can only be used with very careful planning by your healthcare team.1  

If you do find that you are pregnant and have cancer at the same time, you might be worried that the cancer could spread to the baby or harm it in other ways. 

It is very rare that a cancer spreads to a baby – there are only about 25 cases where this is thought to have happened since the 1800s. When it has, the person who was pregnant usually had melanoma (a type of skin cancer) or leukaemia (a type of blood cancer).2

Likewise, there’s no risk that the cancer could spread to a baby through breast milk.3

The biggest risk to a baby being carried by somebody with cancer is cancer treatment, as this can harm the baby and can pass to the baby through breast milk.1 For that reason, people with cancer are advised not to get pregnant.  

Research has shown that people who have had cancer treatment are less likely to get pregnant than somebody who hasn’t had cancer treatment.4 But your own situation will depend very much on the types of treatment that you have had. Because of this, your doctor is the best source of advice for information specific to you.  

While discussing it, they might suggest you look into something called ‘fertility preservation’ – this is where you can collect eggs and/or sperm to be frozen and used to make a baby later on using IVF, and potentially a surrogate if you need one. 

Your doctor may also discuss the timing of when you start trying for a baby – this is because you may need to have regular check-ups and scans to make sure that your cancer isn’t coming back, and these scans could be harmful to an unborn baby.1

The information past here talks a little bit about terminating a pregnancy (abortion). If you think this information might be upsetting or triggering, you might want to stop reading here for now. 

Learning that you are pregnant and have cancer at the same time will probably cause a lot of different emotions – anything from happiness to worry and even fear. 

As somebody who is pregnant, there are limited options for your cancer treatment. This is because the treatment could harm the baby and lead to miscarriage, or cause problems after the baby is born.1

This means you will have to make some potentially difficult decisions: 

  • You may decide that you want to have the baby. In this case, you will have limited treatment options for your cancer, and there is a risk that your cancer might get worse. There are some treatments that can be used in pregnant people, but there are many considerations that need to be taken on board. If this is something you are interested in, you should speak to your oncologist and the doctor who is supporting you through your pregnancy (an obstetrician) about what is possible1
  • You may decide that right now, you need to focus on your own health, or that you would rather not risk having a baby that could grow up without a biological parent. In these instances, you could consider a termination or an abortion. While most abortions are limited to only early in a pregnancy, if you have been diagnosed with cancer at a later stage, you may still be able to have a termination. In some countries, late-term terminations are allowed if there is a risk to health of the person carrying the baby, but you will need to check the laws where you live and discuss this with your doctors 

Ultimately the choice is yours, and you might want to make your decision with advice and support from your partner, doctors, and other friends and loved ones.  

It’s important to recognise that making these decisions can sometimes be quite distressing. If you think you need some extra emotional or mental health support, speak to your doctor, and they can help you find the help you need. 

Click on one of the options below to learn more 

In-vitro fertilisation

  1. Cancer During Pregnancy. 2020. Available from: Last accessed July 2021. 
  2. Greaves M & Hughes W. Evol Med Public Health 2018; 2018(1): 106–115. 
  3. La Leche League International. Cancer and Breastfeeding. 2018. Available from:,due%20to%20malignant%20tissue%20growth. Last accessed July 2021. 
  4. Peccatori FA et al. Ann Oncol 2013; 24(Supp 6): vi160–vi170.