Fertility Preservation and Breast Cancer

According to a 2011 study reported in the journal Fertility & Sterility, most women who develop invasive breast cancer under age 40 will be advised to undergo chemotherapy with or without extended antihormonal therapy to reduce the risk of recurrence and death from breast cancer. Chemotherapy particularly with alkylating agents such as cyclophosphamide is toxic to the ovaries and markedly accelerates the rate of age-related ovarian follicle loss. Although loss of fertility is an important issue for young cancer survivors, there used to be little discussion about fertility preservation before initiation of therapy.

Thankfully, today with a better prognosis for breast cancer sufferers and more effective egg freezing techniques more women are considering fertility preservation. When shortly after receiving the diagnosis, chemotherapy is often started quickly, there is little time to consider the future after cancer survival.

But greater familiarity with prognosis and effects of different types of chemotherapy on the part of infertility specialists and fertility preservation options such on the part of oncologists would facilitate these discussions. Establishment of rapid fertility consultation links within cancer survivorship programs can help ensure that every young woman who is likely to undergo toxic cancer treatment is counseled about the effects of therapy and options available to her to increase the likelihood of childbearing after cancer treatment.

At Reproductive Partners we can schedule immediate consultations with patients referred after receiving any cancer diagnosis, the treatment of which might adversely affect her fertility. In addition we have developed several protocols which allow us to get women into cycles very quickly so we do not delay the start of their cancer treatment. For women who are not in a stable relationship we usually recommend egg freezing while for those who have a long-term relationship embryo freezing is also an option.

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