Interrupting Breast Cancer Treatment to Have a Baby

Sarah and Tom Murray and their son, Owen.
Sarah and Tom Murray and their son, Owen.

Sarah Murray was planning her wedding when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 29 and became a patient in the Young Women with Breast Cancer program at Dana-Farber’s Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers. “Cancer was the furthest thing from our minds,” she recalls.

Like many other young women in her shoes, she feared she would never have children. Instead, she became the first American woman in an international research study to go off breast cancer medication and have a baby.

The study, called POSITIVE, is testing whether it’s safe for breast cancer survivors who want to get pregnant to temporarily stop taking hormone-blocking drugs, such as tamoxifen, for hormone-positive breast cancer. These drugs are usually recommended for five years after initial treatment to help prevent recurrence.

The POSITIVE study, being led in the U.S. by Ann Partridge, MD, MPH, builds on findings from a European study showing that breast cancer survivors who went on to have children were no more likely to have their cancer come back than those who did not have a baby. If some patients wait until the recommended five years on tamoxifen have passed, they may be too old to have a baby, according to Partridge.

After a long road and a difficult decision, Murray is now the proud mother of Owen, born almost four years after her cancer diagnosis. “It was a risk I was willing to take,” she says.

Learn more about breast cancer treatment from the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber