Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women around the world. Breast cancer is known to affect 12% of women in the childbearing age, which is 20-34 years. The treatment during this phase of life becomes difficult because chemotherapy is too strong for the ovarian tissues. In fact, a study also reveals that breast cancer survivors of this age appeared less likely to become pregnant than women in the general population. Survivors who become pregnant after completing cancer treatment experience more risks, such as preterm birth. However, there are also cases in which most survivors conceived healthy babies without any complications.
Understanding Breast Cancer Treatments and Fertility
Treatments such as chemotherapy have a huge impact on a woman’s ability to conceive. Breast cancer treatment can make a woman think about her fertility sooner than she has planned. While the main concern is to treat your breast cancer, if giving birth is a priority, she can preserve her fertility through IVF or freezing eggs. It is vital to talk to the doctor before starting with the cancer treatment.
Can Chemotherapy Cause Infertility?
If a woman has not been through menopause and is still in childbearing age, Chemotherapy can cause infertility. It can impact the ovaries’ functions by reducing the quality and number of eggs. The likelihood of a woman having fertility issues in the future relies on various factors. For example, age, the type of drugs consumed and fertility condition before breast cancer treatment.
The drugs used in Chemotherapy that can affect a woman’s fertility are a group known as alkylating agents. The most commonly used drug used with other chemo drugs is cyclophosphamide. Besides, chemo is also responsible for stopping the periods. This could be permanent or temporary. If a woman is under 35, the periods will be more likely to return than those above 35. Even if the periods come back after Chemotherapy, odds are, the menopause is likely to occur sooner. This may indicate that a woman has less time to conceive.
Pregnancy during Hormonal Therapy
Hormone therapy is effective for a woman whose breast cancer is ER+ OR Oestrogen receptor-positive. Some commonly used drugs in hormone therapy for premenopausal women with breast cancer include:
- Goserelin (Zoladex)
- Aromatase inhibitors with goserelin
The hormonal treatment goes for five years or maybe longer. While taking this therapy, she will be advise not to conceive as it can harm a developing baby. Even if the period stops during this therapy, a woman still has a chance to conceive. If a woman wants a child in her 30s or early 40s, taking hormone therapy for five years can be a big issue to conceive. So, it is better for her to consult the cancer care team.
Oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries)
In some women, removing ovaries becomes a part of their breast cancer treatment. A woman who has her ovaries removed will be left infertile. So, it is better to consider donating embryos or eggs in the future.
How to Preserve fertility during Breast Cancer Treatment in Childbearing Age?
Before a woman starts breast cancer treatment, she will get many procedures that can help her preserve her fertility.
Cryopreservation– This procedure includes freezing eggs or embryos to help preserve the fertility of women with breast cancer.
Ovarian transportation– This process involves moving the ovaries from the specific area of radiation treatment. It is a standard option for young females who will receive pelvic radiation. This is an outpatient procedure that doesn’t require a hospital stay.
Oocytes– This procedure means harvesting unfertilized eggs of a woman and freezing them for future implantation. This is the same method used by infertile couples when pursuing IVF. This preservation process needs careful coordination that should be done before or quickly after surgery. However, it should be before initiating chemotherapy.
A woman with breast cancer at childbearing age should not think of giving up the plans for the future child. It is vital to consult the best hospital and breast cancer care team that quickly explores fertility options without compromising cancer care.
If you are also in childbearing age looking for effective treatment without losing your chances to get pregnant, make sure to choose the best hospital. At Lyfboat, we offer a wide range of information on doctors, hospitals, cost of treatment and more to make your breast cancer treatment journey successful.