Fertility Preservation for Breast Cancer Patients
1 in 8 women in the United States are affected with breast cancer. In about 20% of breast cancer cases the women are younger than 50 years old (American Cancer Society). In recent years cancer screening programs have improved significantly allowing physicians to detect cancer much earlier on. Quality of life and life expectancy among cancer patients has also increased due to extensive research and medical advancements. Even with all of the technological advancement over the years, cancer treatment still has the ability to reduce a patient’s fertility due to the toxicity of the treatments which is why fertility preservation should be a is a crucial part of a patient’s medical plan.
Top 5 Fertility Preservation Practices
1. Initial fertility preservation consultation should be scheduled within 24 hours of diagnosis
Making cancer patients a fertility preservation appointment quickly is a priority, which means the initial discussion regarding fertility treatment options should take place within 24 hours, even on weekends and holidays. Fertility specialists understand that a cancer diagnosis can come at any time and they should act as quickly as possible. It is very important that a fertility clinic has working relationships with a patient’s other medical providers including: breast surgeons, gynecologists, and radiologists to ensure a prompt referral process. The best fertility clinics are typically within major health systems and hospitals who are trusted to deliver the most collaborative care.
2. Ready to start fertility preservation treatment same day
Studies have concluded that starting fertility preservation treatment which includes ovarian stimulation to freeze eggs or fertilize to create embryos can be done effectively at any point in a woman’s menstrual cycle for cancer patients. The fertility clinic will be ready to get the medications at discounted rates, and sometimes even for free through special pharmaceutical programs and initiatives. Many fertility clinics will have special pricing to cover all fertility testing and procedures involved if the patient’s insurance company does not cover infertility treatment.
3. An entire fertility preservation treatment cycle can be completed within 2 weeks
Fertility specialists will coordinate medical visits with a patient’s oncologist in order to not interrupt any cancer treatment sessions. Many of the cancer treatments can be done simultaneously with fertility treatments. In most cases, chemotherapy can begin immediately after egg retrieval, which occurs within 2 weeks of starting fertility medications.
4. Excellent IVF pregnancy rates
The fertility clinic that a patient selects for their care should utilize embryo and egg freezing techniques with a survival rate of 95% with the thaw process. Their pregnancy rates should be the same as others undergoing a fresh embryo transfer in each age category, which you can look up by visiting the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART).
5. Fertility treatment that is safe
Fertility treatment for breast cancer patients have shown no increase in recurrence or severity of breast cancer in many published studies. Avoiding overstimulation and keeping estrogen levels low during fertility treatment should be standard practice.
Fertility preservation for cancer patients preserves their future fertility. When a patient’s cancer treatment is completed and their disease is stable, patients may return to fulfilling their goals of building a family.