Breast Cancer, Infertility, and Freezing Eggs
There are a million things that run through a woman’s mind after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis. One of the hardest things about cancer is that, even if remission is achieved, the disease and treatment could have other long-term impacts. For many women, especially those who have yet to have any children, a major concern may be the effect of treatment on their future fertility.
Breast cancer is fairly common among women. One in eight will develop the disease during their lifetime in the United States alone. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, lumpectomies, and mastectomies are some of the methods used to treat it. However, chemotherapy can cause infertility later in life. This possibility, though, depends on a variety of factors, such as the types of drugs used, the age of the patient, and their chances of infertility. Some drugs are less likely to cause infertility, for example. After treatment, doctors advise women not to plan a pregnancy for at least six months since the eggs in the body can be damaged during chemotherapy, which can cause genetic problems or miscarriages. In some women, chemotherapy can induce early menopause. However, even after undergoing chemotherapy, pregnancy is still possible.
Successful pregnancies post-treatment are possible due to scientific advances. Even among women who don’t have cancer, the procedure known as egg freezing is gaining popularity. Women who want to control their reproduction and ensure a successful pregnancy often choose to freeze their eggs. It is estimated that around 76,000 women will freeze their eggs by the end of 2018. For those with breast cancer and who are undergoing chemotherapy treatments, egg freezing increases their chances of a successful pregnancy. It is a safe procedure. To instigate the maturation of multiple eggs at once, women will receive hormone injections. Another injection is then given to release the eggs for retrieval. The risks associated with this procedure are minimal. Due to the hormone injections, some may experience ovarian hyper-stimulation, however, this is rare.
There is no guarantee of a successful pregnancy through egg freezing, although it increases the chances of having one. Some may be uncertain and unable to conceive. Those undergoing cancer and impending treatment especially may hesitate. Price is another barrier; as the procedure is gaining popularity, it is no longer cheap. However, those with a cancer diagnosis may receive some help from their insurance companies. Be sure, though, to read through the policies carefully. In the beginning treatment, the perceived delay caused may make some women with breast cancer stop. However, this barrier has been eliminated through advancements in the procedure. A traditional egg freezing follows after a woman’s natural menstrual cycle, which may take four to six weeks. To begin the treatment, there’s a suggested six-week window, which is not believed to decrease the five-year survival rate. So, although some worry that the treatment could get delayed past this six-week window due to waiting for the woman’s natural menstrual cycle, this is no longer a concern thanks to new ovulation stimulation technology. The entire procedure can be completed in two weeks. The choice of freezing one’s eggs is personal and such decisions are not easy to make, but new ovulation stimulation technology is making things a bit easier.