Even in couples who have not yet had children, the
urgency of dealing with breast cancer often takes precedence over
plans to build a family. Sometimes rash treatment decisions are made
that cannot later be reversed. For example, embarking on a course
of hormone therapy or chemotherapy may lead to infertility that is
not reversible. For younger couples, future fertility is one area
that merits as much research as any other aspect of breast cancer
Breast cancer in itself does not rule out the possibility of having
children. Many women go on to have successful pregnancies, with no
adverse effect on their health or future outcome. If you're in your
child-bearing years and would like to have a baby, it is very important
to discuss this issue with all the physicians on your team, including
your oncologist, radiation therapist, pathologist, and surgeon. Ask
them to review all the details of your case—such as cancer type,
degree of spread, amount of radiation you received, and so on—before
advising you on whether it is safe for you to get pregnant.
Recent advances in fertility offer new options for women who must
undergo treatment that is likely to destroy the eggs in their
ovaries and render them sterile.
One option is embryo freezing. For this procedure a few of the woman's
eggs are surgically removed, artificially fertilized in vitro then
frozen and stored for future re-implantation in the woman's uterus.
This procedure has a 10-25% success rate.
Another option is removal and storage of unfertilized eggs—a
good option if the woman is not in a relationship. This procedure
has a lower (3%) success rate. Make sure you review all your options
with a fertility expert.
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