Breast cancer is a diagnosis that strikes fear in the hearts of most women. But there are many reasons to be optimistic about the future for the one in eight females (12%) affected by it.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Advocates wear pink ribbons to symbolize support and education. Women are encouraged to undergo mammograms and breast self-exams. Early detection, prompt care, and advances in treatment have contributed to significant increases in remission and cure.
Despite these inroads, many women of reproductive age are not aware of the options for fertility preservation if the unthinkable happens and they are diagnosed with this disease. Doctors, too, need more education abuot how to counsel patients so they can get timely and accurate and accurate information.
For young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer, the shock of the diagnosis may be compounded with the knowledge that life-saving treatment can leave them infertile. But the hope for successful preservation has never been more promising.
Egg and embryo freezing are two effective methods that can insure fertility well into the future. Your desire for children does not need to be dashed with this frightening diagnosis.
The best option is to preserve fertility by freezing eggs (single women) or embryos (with a partner or sperm donor) prior to the initiation of chemotherapy or radiation. At HRC Fertility, we have the ability to expedite IVF treatment and suggest cancer patients undergo at least one cycle, no matter the type of cancer. The patient would, of course, want to get medical clearance from her doctor. If the cancer is not very aggressive, then the patient may be able to complete more cycles to store eggs/embryos. We base medication dosage and length of treatment on their diagnosis and prognosis.
When in Treatment, Don't Forget Routine Breast Health
Because infertility patients have so many medicatl appointments, it can seem like they are always at a doctor's office! While this might be true, it is also important to not forget to schedule a yearly physical with your primary care physician, who can perform a breast exam and schedule you for a mammogram if it's medically indicated. Also don't forget to perform self-exams, at least once monthly. As part of your history, you should inform us if you or family members have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Came Out of the Shadows. Can Infertility?
One in eight women are impacted by a breast cancer diagnosis as they ae with infertility. Only a few decades ago, however breast cancer patients might have been silent about their condition, suffering alone. However, successful awareness campaigns made huge strides in helping women and the public learn about risk factors, prevention and treatment options while raising large sums of money to support education and research. That little pink ribbon is now commonplace, just as we hope the infertility symbol of awareness, the yellow ribbon, will become. The more people feel free and open to discuss their infertility journeys, the better the chances are this will become a reality.
Resources for Fertility Preservation
Fertile Action (http://www.fertileaction.org)