New research gives hope to countless women who survived childhood cancer and think they cannot have children of their own. Clinical researchers at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer, Blood Disorders Center, and Brigham and Women's Hospital discovered that nearly two-thirds of female childhood cancer survivors who tried to become pregnant for at least one year had eventually succeeded. This is about the same rate of pregnancy as in clinically infertile women who did not have childhood cancer. Doctors say a woman is clinically infertile if she does not conceive after one year of trying to conceive (TTC).

Researchers performed the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS), sought to investigate infertility and time to pregnancy rates among women who had survived pediatric cancer. CCSS is the first large-scale study of its kind; it looked at 3531 survivors who were younger than 21 when they were diagnosed with cancer between Jan 1, 1970, and Dec 31, 1986. The scientists used 1366 female sibling as the control group.

The study, published in a July 2013 issue of Lancet Oncology, showed that infertility rates were 50 percent higher in the group of cancer survivors than in the control group of sisters. About 13 percent of the survivors needed a year or more to become pregnant; only 8 percent of the sisters needed that much time.

Females who received radiation treatments to their abdominal areas were more likely to have non-working ovaries. Fortunately, the study shows fertility treatment works as well for these women as it does for women seeking treatment who did not have cancer as a child.

Dr. Lisa Diller, chief medical officer of Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, encourages women who are infertile after surviving cancer as a child to seek fertility treatment in their 20s. She says of the study, "For doctors who suspect that this type of infertility is untreatable, we now know that not to be the case."


  • Richard A Anderson. "Infertility in women after childhood cancer." The Lancet Oncology - 1 August 2013 (Vol. 14, Issue 9, Pages 797-798) DOI:10.1016/S1470-2045(13)70278-X 
  • Barton SE, Najita JS, Ginsburg ES, Leisenring WM, Stovall M, Weathers RE, Sklar CA, Robison LL, Diller L. "Infertility, infertility treatment, and achievement of pregnancy in female survivors of childhood cancer: a report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study cohort." Lancet Oncol." 2013 Aug;14(9):873-81. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(13)70251-1. Epub 2013 Jul 13