Breast Cancer and Fertility Preservation 101
Breast cancer affects one in eight women in the United States, and about 11% of all new cases are found in women under the age of 45.
With advanced medicine and early detection efforts, survival rates for breast cancer treatment are very high. However, the radiation and chemotherapy that successfully treat breast cancer simultaneously damage fertility.
Chemotherapy attacks reproductive cells in the women’s body, and like radiation and hormonal therapies can cause women to enter menopause early.
The good news is that you have options. With current reproductive technology, you are able to preserve your fertility without worsening the cancer or delaying recovery. The key is to include fertility concerns in your treatment plan as soon as possible. Read on to find out what your options are.
Your options include:
Freezing Your Eggs
Cryo-vitrification is a flash-freezing technique that allows unfertilized female eggs to be frozen quickly enough without damage to the cell. This allows us to freeze and later thaw the eggs for use in IVF cycles.
Freezing your eggs offers you the opportunity to preserve the success rates associated with your current age and health.
The procedure for egg freezing involves taking hormonal medication for approximately ten days to stimulate the ovaries to produce several follicles, so that more than one egg may be retrieved and frozen. During the stimulation you are monitored with ultrasounds and blood tests, prior to a minor surgical procedure needed to retrieve the eggs.
You do not need to wait until your next period in order to start the medications needed to prepare the ovaries for the egg retrieval. Importantly, these medications do not worsen breast cancer or delay your recovery.
Freezing Fertilized Eggs using IVF
You have the option of fertilizing your eggs using IVF before freezing them. You may want to do this if, at the time of your breast cancer diagnosis, you already have a partner you would like to have biological children with. This will preserve the success rates associated with you and your partner’s current health and age.
Caring for the generation ahead with PGT
If you have a family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer, you may have an inherited risk of getting breast cancer (such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations). If so, choosing to undergo IVF with PGT can prevent you from passing these genes on to your children.
Egg Donation or Surrogacy
In cases where using your own eggs is not an option for you, you may consider using egg donation or a surrogate to have children. This is often referred to as “Third Party Reproduction.”
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The Bottom Line
Egg and embryo freezing do not guarantee that you will conceive or have a child in the future. However, they can give you the peace of mind to focus on your cancer treatment and recovery without worrying how it will impact your chances of having biological children later on.
Quality of life issues must be incorporated into any treatment plan, and chief among those is fertility. You deserve the opportunity to preserve your fertility before administering any potentially irreversible harm to it.
As time is of the essence, we recommend including physicians and nurses who are familiar with ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval as part of your comprehensive breast cancer treatment team as soon as possible.
After a diagnosis of breast cancer, you can expect from us:
- An immediate personalized consultation with a physician to review your case and formulate a fertility preservation plan.
- A review of realistic expectations.
- Communication with your cancer care physician.
- An immediate assessment of your insurance coverage and determination of any potential out of pocket expenses to you through our Patient Financial Advisors.
- Initiation of a treatment plan to get your eggs for freezing, fertilizing, or both.
Please reach out to us for a consultation via our intake form.
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