Recover Overcoming Treatment Fertility
One thing that worries many breast cancer survivors -- especially if they were diagnosed during the height of their childbearing years – is whether treatment will affect their ability conceive.
In women under 40, how breast cancer treatment affects fertility often depends on their age, the type and stage of their breast cancer at the time of diagnosis and the type of treatment they receive.
However, let’s be clear, not all breast cancer treatments cause infertility.
Chemotherapy, not surgery or radiation therapy, is typically the culprit after breast cancer treatment. In understanding the impact of breast cancer treatment, it becomes apparent why.
If a woman receives chemotherapy as part of her breast cancer treatment, then she is at risk of developing premature ovarian failure -- or very early menopause. That risk is 40 percent to 80 percent, according to FertileHope, a national LIVESTRONG initiative dedicated to providing reproductive information, support and hope to cancer patients and survivors whose treatments bring the risk of infertility.
In addition, researchers at the Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y., have determined that there is a link between breast cancer and infertility. To determine if you are at risk, go to “Why Breast Cancer and Infertility are Linked”. You may also want to review Cancer, Premature Menopause, and Infertility.
What to do about Infertility
Tamoxifen, a drug traditionally used to prevent breast cancer reoccurrence, was recently found to stimulate ovaries in breast cancer survivors during an in-vitro fertilization cycle, enhancing both egg and embryo production. This extra boost can combat infertility barriers such as age and diminishing ovarian reserves, which occurs naturally with aging, according to Kutluk Oktay, MD, founder of The Institute for Fertility Preservation. He is a professor of obstetrics & gynecology and the director of the Reproductive Medicine & Infertility division at New York Medical College.
However, it is generally recommended that a survivor wait at least two years before trying to become pregnant, because the most serious issues with infertility will occur within the first two years after treatment. When you are ready, you should address your fertility concerns and issues with the appropriate medical professional. Your oncologist may be able to make a referral.
Additional resources include:
The Fertility Factor
IVF1 Fertility Clinic
For more information on addressing fertility issues, go to Breast Cancer Partner’s Resources. You can also share your knowledge with other survivors in our Partner Forum or at Survivor Tips.