Preserving Fertility After Breast Cancer Diagnosis

"You have breast cancer."
These are not the words anyone wants to hear, but far too many of us face the reality of breast cancer and all that comes with it, including possible infertility. For those diagnosed with breast cancer and hoping to preserve their fertility before treatment, our specialists at California Fertility Partners can help.

2021's Breast Cancer Tallies

The National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., has a comprehensive list of breast cancer statistics for 2021. A few of the more pertinent ones include:

  • Predictions for 2021 estimated more than 281,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer in U.S. women and over 49,000 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer.
  • It was estimated that about 2,650 men would be diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. in 2021.
  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, second only to skin cancers.
  • One in eight American women can expect a breast cancer diagnosis in her lifetime.

91% Survival Rate!

The most recent data from 2021 lists survival rates for women diagnosed with breast cancer at 91% five years after diagnosis, the survival rate after ten years recorded at 84%, and an 80% survival rate for breast cancer fifteen years after the initial diagnosis.

Infertility Following Breast Cancer Treatment

Cancer survivors are frequently left with lasting, untoward effects from chemotherapy and surgery. One of the potentially lasting effects can be infertility.

Many breast cancer patients are concerned that cancer treatments will affect their fertility status. In a 2004 study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, 57% of patients with early breast cancer expressed concern about their future fertility, and 29% said these concerns affected their decisions regarding therapy.

What Treatments Might Impact Fertility?

Some of the more traditional cancer treatments can impact fertility. Newer treatment options are available as pills or immunotherapy, and because they are newer, their effect on fertility isn't fully known. Treatments with the highest risk to fertility in males and females include total-body irradiation and stem cell transplant.

  • Chemotherapy can weaken or eliminate a man's ability to produce sperm or a woman's ability to produce mature eggs.
  • Hormone therapy can impair egg and sperm production.
  • Surgery negatively impacts fertility if reproductive organs must be removed.

If you require a treatment method that could compromise your fertility, it's essential that you talk to your reproductive specialist about preserving your fertility before you begin treatments.

Preserving Fertility Following Breast Cancer

With a bit of planning, your fertility can be preserved, making it possible for you to have your own biological child once you complete your cancer treatments. Fertility preservation involves saving or protecting a person's eggs, sperm, or reproductive tissues so that they can undergo fertility treatment such as IVF in the future to successfully grow their family.

The first step is to talk to your reproductive specialist about the possible impact your cancer treatments may have on your reproductive potential. If you decide to preserve your fertility, you'll need to find out what options are available.

Ensuring that a person can have biological children after cancer treatment requires some fertility preservation planning. Some cancer treatments include surgery, which can remove organs needed for pregnancy. Other treatments, such as chemotherapy, can damage eggs or sperm, or disrupt normal hormone production, causing loss of fertility, either temporarily or permanently.

Everyone can take steps that may help preserve their fertility, allowing them to have children after treatment. Your reproductive specialist at California Fertility Partners can discuss and explain your options before your cancer treatment begins.

Embryo Freezing

This is an effective way to help preserve fertility. Mature eggs are placed in a sterile lab dish with thousands of sperm. The sperm will hopefully fertilize an egg. This is called in vitro fertilization or IVF. If the egg is fertilized and able to develop into a healthy embryo, the embryo is frozen and stored until the patient is ready to try for pregnancy.

Egg Freezing

This is an effective method for preserving fertility and offers a choice for women who don't have a partner at the time, or who don't want to use a sperm donor to make a fertilized embryo. For egg freezing, mature eggs are removed from the woman and frozen before fertilizing them. The eggs can be thawed, fertilized, and implanted into the uterus later.

Sperm Collecting and Banking

For some male breast cancer patients, their treatment may have damaged or required surgical removal of reproductive organs, disrupted hormone levels, or damaged the DNA of the sperm. Men can preserve their reproductive products before beginning cancer treatments, making it possible for a male breast cancer survivor to father biological children in the future.

Sperm banking is the most common method for adult male fertility preservation. In sperm banking, one or more semen samples are collected from the male patient. The sperm bank then tests the sperm cells, and if everything looks good, the sample is placed in frozen storage.

For some men who were fertile before treatment for breast cancer, there's the possibility of natural recovery of sperm production. This usually depends on factors such as the man's age, cancer type, treatments, and other pre-existing health problems.

Schedule a Consultation

At California Fertility Partners, our team is passionate about preserving fertility in cancer patients and making fertility preservation accessible to patients battling cancer. Connect with our team at California Fertility Partners to explore all of your fertility preservation and family-building options. Schedule a consultation today to preserve your fertility following breast cancer, or any other rare cancer forms.

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