Fertility and breast cancer: 6 Things you should know
Monday, October 14, 2019
Breast cancer can be scary enough without wondering if it will also prevent you from having children.
Here are 6 things you need to Know:
1- You should ask your doctor if your treatment might cause infertility and, if so, what your personal risk is. You should also ask about ways to preserve or protect your fertility before you start treatment.
2- Breast cancer patients treated with chemotherapy run the risk of developing premature ovarian failure or very early menopause.
Chemotherapy can cause infertility in women who haven’t been through the menopause (pre-menopausal). It can affect the functioning of the ovaries, reducing the number and/or quality of eggs.
Chemotherapy can also cause your periods to stop (amenorrhoea). This may be temporary or permanent. In general, the younger you are when having treatment, and particularly if you’re under 35, the more likely it is that your periods will return. Women over 35 are more likely to lose their fertility after chemotherapy.
If your periods do return, it doesn’t necessarily mean your fertility has been unaffected, the likelihood of becoming infertile depends on the type of drugs used, the dose given, your age and your current fertility.
3- If you want to have children, some doctors advise breast cancer survivors to wait at least 2 years after all treatment has finished before trying to get pregnant. The best length of time to wait is not clear, but 2 years is thought to be enough time to find any early return of the cancer, which could affect your decision to become pregnant. Keep in mind that this advice is not based on data from any clinical trials. And some breast cancers can come back after the 2-year mark, so every case is different. Your decision should be based on many things, including your age, desire for more pregnancies, type of breast cancer, and the risk of the cancer coming back early.
4- If you are still getting any type of treatment for breast cancer, including chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or targeted therapy, talk to your doctor before trying to become pregnant. These drugs could affect a growing fetus, so it is safer to wait until all treatment is complete before getting pregnant. It’s also important to remember that stopping treatment early can increase the risk of the cancer growing or coming back.
Many people who have had cancer worry that their children may get cancer, too. There is no evidence that children conceived after cancer treatment are at an increased risk for birth defects or other health problems. However, a few cancers are passed from parents to children through genes. If you have one of these hereditary cancers, there may be a higher risk. Talk with your doctor or a genetic counselor about having children.
5- If you think you may want to have children one day, or just want to keep your options open, the best time to talk to your doctor about fertility is before you begin breast cancer treatment. This way you it give you the option to preserve your fertility through eggs freezing in order to do IVF after completion of chemotherapy. Egg Freezing offers you flexibility in delaying pregnancy for later in life and allows you to take control of your own biological clock.
6- The emotional toll of cancer can be even more challenging when your fertility may be affected by the very medications and procedures that are meant to save you. It is important to know that you are not alone and that it is normal to feel a mix of emotions. Surround yourself with a strong support system as you decide on your best course of action, with open communication among your family and friends, support groups, counselors, and health care team.