Female survivors of therapeutic chest radiation often question whether they will have difficulty with breast feeding, given their prior exposure to breast radiation. In the current study, the rates of successful breastfeeding in long-term survivors who received chest radiotherapy (CXRT) as a treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) were examined.
A survey study of survivors of HL who were treated at the Joint Center for Radiation Therapy in Boston from 1969 through 1996 was performed. Patients were queried about childbearing and breastfeeding. The authors analyzed self-reported breastfeeding success in women who reported live births after CXRT and compared them with a sibling control group.
Overall, 83 female survivors of HL who were treated with CXRT reported at least 1 birth after treatment. There were a total of 141 post-HL pregnancies resulting in births. In these women, the median age at the time of the HL diagnosis was 23 years (range, 14-40 years) and the median radiation dose was 41 grays (Gy) (range, 27-46 Gy). For survivors, 57 of the 94 (61%) breastfeeding attempts were successful, whereas within the control group, 74 of the 94 (79%) attempts were successful (P = .044). Accounting for maternal age at first birth and birth era, multivariable analysis suggested that HL survivors treated with CXRT may be less likely to breastfeed successfully than their siblings (odds ratio, 0.42; 95% confidence interval, 0.2-1.0 [P = .06]).
The majority of female HL survivors who were treated with CXRT report being able to breastfeed successfully. However, the results of the current study indicate a trend toward less successful breastfeeding in survivors as a previously unreported late effect of radiation. Cancer 2010. © 2010 American Cancer Society.