Mark L. Sundermeyer, MD
Oncologist at Abington Health
Although it is much more likely for women to develop breast cancer after age 40, a troubling study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that there has been a small but steady increase in the number of new cases among women ages 25 to 39. Younger women tend to not only have more aggressive forms of cancer and lower survival rates, but they may also have to face the unique challenge of how the disease or its treatment may affect their fertility. The good news is that there are many options for dealing with this physically and emotionally tough issue.
You can learn more during Abington Health’s live web chat with Dr. Mark L. Sundermeyer, “The Latest Advancements in Breast Cancer Treatment,” on Thursday, March 20 at noon.
Although your future reproductive health may be the last thing on your mind as you prepare to fight cancer, it is an important consideration that you should discuss with your oncologist before starting any therapy.
A reproductive endocrinologist can help you better understand the potential impact of cancer treatments on your future fertility, and the options that exist. They include:
- Freezing eggs or embryos. You may choose to preserve eggs or embryos by freezing them for future use. The process of freezing an embryo usually involves in vitro fertilization, in which eggs are fertilized in a lab with a donor or partner’s sperm, and has the best odds of resulting in a pregnancy.
- Ovarian preservation. There are a number of methods for protecting the ovaries and eggs during breast cancer treatments. Shielding uses a physical barrier during radiation treatment to protect tissues outside of the treatment area. The ovaries can also be surgically moved away from the irradiated area prior to treatment, although that does carry a risk of loss of ovarian function. And a highly experimental new technique known as ovarian tissue freezing removes the ovarian tissue and freezes it for later implantation.
- Fertility-sparing surgery. Some gynecologic cancers can be removed without affecting reproductive function.
If you’re concerned about your fertility, even if you aren’t planning on starting a family right now, specialists can explain these and other options, including using donor eggs or embryos if you sustain ovarian damage as a result of treatment, or using a gestational surrogate if you cannot carry a pregnancy after cancer treatment.
Learn more about the latest advancements in breast cancer treatment at the next live Health Chat with Abington Health on Thursday, March 20th at 12 pm. Sign up here.