Did you know that for people in the United States it is estimated that 43,780 people (43,250 women and 530 men) will die from breast cancer in 2022 alone? Or that around 9% of all new breast cancer cases in the country are found in women younger than 45? And that around 170,000 people in the U.S. are currently living with metastatic breast cancer?
Fortunately, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, making it a good time to learn more about breast cancer and the risks one might face, and how to minimize them by being screened for it annually. If you haven’t already, schedule your mammogram and encourage the people you care about to get theirs.
Fertility and Breast Cancer
For women who are young and premenopausal, or who are still experiencing monthly menstrual cycles, getting breast cancer treatments can have an impact on your fertility, which can make conception more difficult. Getting chemotherapy can adversely affect your ovaries while receiving hormonal therapy can cause irregular periods (or halt them altogether).
Most often, doctors recommend waiting to get pregnant for women getting breast cancer treatments and then taking a break after the treatment is over before trying to conceive. For women who are undergoing treatment long-term, you can take steps to protect your fertility for pregnancy down the road before or while you’re being treated for metastatic breast cancer.
Our fertility specialists (reproductive endocrinologists) are proficient in helping women who are fighting breast cancer. There are treatment plans that minimize its impact on your fertility. We can harvest and freeze both eggs and embryos to save for later and before starting chemotherapy. If you are a woman between 30 to 35, you can often ovulate and still be fertile even with metastatic breast cancer. For women in early menopause, your eggs can be frozen and your embryos can be implanted for conception and pregnancy. Even women who have not taken these steps can still use donor eggs to have a baby or use a gestational carrier (a surrogate) to give birth.
In some cases, if your cancer has been stable for a while, interrupting cancer treatment may be an option, as well as waiting until after you have children to start your treatment. Women have also become pregnant and carried their babies to birth while still taking some treatments and precautions. In fact, there are instances where babies who were exposed to chemotherapy during pregnancy still have normal growth and development after they are born. If you are a woman with breast cancer, here are some things to ask your doctor or reproductive endocrinologist:
Important Questions To Ask
-Can I be checked for fertility before beginning breast cancer treatment?
-How will my age impact my ability to conceive?
-Can I become pregnant after breast cancer treatment?
-What is the wait time after cancer treatment to determine if I am still fertile?
-What are the options for preserving my fertility?
-What fertility treatments might I potentially be looking at having?
-What is the success rate for women preserving fertility?
-Am I able to use a sperm donor?
Our Utah Fertility Center specialists offer support and treatment for women trying to conceive after breast cancer treatment so you are never alone on your journey. We have helped many women whose fertility has been affected by breast cancer treatment to go on and have healthy pregnancies and babies.
Read One Woman’s Story:
Fertility After Breast Cancer: Balancing Hope and Disappointment