October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Because this cancer highly concerns women’s health issues, many people wonder the relationship between breast cancer and fertility. Read to find out how breast cancer affects your fertility, and how you can possibly prevent infertility.
Breast Cancer Effects on the Reproductive System
During certain cases of breast cancer, a doctor will recommend chemotherapy for treatment. Because breast cancer and fertility do not have a good relationship, many women who need chemotherapy are concerned about the treatment’s effects. Chemotherapy is meant to kill all fast-growing cancer cells, but it also attacks other rapidly dividing cells in the body, such as hair follicles or even eggs within the ovaries. Chemotherapy treatment can damage the ovaries in female patients, sometimes causing irregular periods or the permanent loss of fertility. Additionally, undergoing chemotherapy may delay attempting to conceive by 5 years or more, leading to an age-associated decline in fertility.
In women who are over 40 during treatment, there is a greater chance of early menopause. This limits the chances for a healthy pregnancy and delivery. However, the effects of chemotherapy all depend on the stage of cancer, the treatment type, the dosage of chemotherapy and the woman’s age during treatment. Younger women are more likely to have periods return after chemotherapy, as the risk of permanent menopause increase with age, but they are also more likely to have lower numbers of eggs available for reproduction even if their periods do return.
There is still hope! You can do something to preserve your fertility before cancer treatment. While consulting a fertility specialist, you can discuss your options for fertility preservation. Embryo freezing and egg freezing are among the best options you have. In this process, eggs are collected, fertilized and then frozen. A process like this allows you to store healthy embryos and use them later. Embryos can be thawed and implanted into the uterus once cancer treatment is over. If you are a woman without a male partner, or if you do not yet have a sperm donor, you also have the option to freeze your unfertilized eggs.
Ask a Fertility Specialist
Each patient’s case of cancer and treatment is different. The best thing you can do is discuss your condition and your options for fertility treatments with a specialist as soon as possible. If you’d like to start a family in the future, contact our fertility clinic before you start chemotherapy.