How women with breast cancer can preserve fertility

Facing a breast cancer diagnosis can be a difficult and uncertain time for any woman. You’ll be facing some tough decisions, and one of them might be about your fertility.

If you’re about to undertake cancer treatment such as chemotherapy, you may be forced to think about the idea of starting a family sooner than you expected. This is due to the effect cancer therapies can have on your fertility.

Most chemotherapy drugs, including Busulfan, Cisplatin and Dacarbazine, can cause damage your egg reserve, as alongside targeting the cancerous cells in your body, they can also kill some healthy cells.

Fortunately, there are multiple fertility preservation therapies for you to consider. Here at Reproductive Health Group, we would always suggest speaking with your oncologist before considering any of our cancer fertility preservation packages, to ensure that it is medically safe for you to do so.

Here are some of the most popular methods of preserving your fertility after a cancer diagnosis.

IVF treatment

One of the most effective ways to preserve fertility, IVF treatment is one of the most popular treatments we provide. The process involves retrieving eggs from a woman’s ovaries and fertilising them in our HFEA approved laboratory with sperm from either a partner, or a donor.

Once the egg is fertilised, the embryo is then placed back into the woman’s womb to be carried to full term. You should be aware that if you undertake IVF treatment before starting chemotherapy or radiation, this process will delay your cancer treatment. For this reason, we would always encourage patients to discuss the treatment with their doctor first.

Ovarian tissue freezing

Whereas IVF can delay cancer treatment, ovarian tissue freezing is performed very quickly, which means that you could begin your chemotherapy the next day.

This kind of cancer preservation treatment is relatively new, so therefore success isn’t a guarantee, however studies conducted in the journal Reproductive Sciences found that nearly four out of 10 women who undergo the procedure are able to have children later in life.

Ovarian tissue freezing involved a small operation to remove some tissue from your ovaries, which is then frozen. This piece of tissue contains immature eggs and is separated into slivers and frozen until thawed and put back in the ovary.

Egg freezing

Another popular form of fertility preservation, the process of freezing your eggs is not all that different to IVF. After undergoing stimulation using fertility drugs, your mature eggs are removed from the ovary to be frozen and stored for possible later use. The removal process takes around 20 minutes and is carried out under sedation.

Once these eggs are required for use, they are fertilised directly with sperm in an ICSI cycle. Egg freezing is another innovative procedure, and at this time, there has been no research linking egg freezing to birth defects or chromosomal abnormalities. The success rate is around 15%.

Ovarian suppression

The female hormone oestrogen is known to sometimes stimulate breast cancer cells, causing them to grow. The ovaries continually produce oestrogen, and so may encourage your cancer cells to duplicate, increasing any symptoms.

A fertility preservation treatment which will not only help to contain the cancer cells in your body, but will also help to protect your ovaries, and therefore your fertility during cancer treatment, is ovarian suppression.

Before undertaking chemotherapy, monthly hormone injections to supress your ovaries from producing oestrogen are required, and must continue throughout your cancer treatment.

These injections are necessary to stop your eggs maturing, hopefully resulting in them being left unaffected by chemotherapy treatment.

Our experts are always on hand to discuss the right method of fertility preservation for you, as every situation is different. Get in touch to find out how we can help you feel as though your fertility is completely under your control.