Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Breast cancer and fertility treatment
Thanks to effective treatment, as well as highly visible campaigns reminding women to perform breast self-exams and get annual mammograms, deaths from breast cancer are on the decline. Our Los Angeles fertility specialists get a lot of questions about breast cancer and fertility treatment, and we think that Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a great time to talk about breast health through the lens of fertility care.
Are breast cancer and fertility treatment linked?
Our Los Angeles fertility specialists hear two common questions about breast cancer and fertility.
- Are breast cancer and fertility treatment linked?
- Why do I need a breast exam before starting fertility treatment?
While the medications used in assisted reproductive technology, such as IVF, are hormone-based, research has not shown that taking these hormones during fertility treatment increases a woman’s breast cancer risk. In fact, a thorough study published in 2016 concluded that there was no connection between the ovarian stimulation medications used in IVF and incidence of breast cancer among the 25,000 women studied. However, with breast cancer remaining the second-leading cause of cancer death in women, our Los Angeles fertility specialists don’t want to take any chances.
Though it is uncommon, women who become pregnant with undiagnosed breast cancer are often forced to make tough choices about whether to pursue treatment that could harm the baby they are carrying. When cancer is found during a pregnancy, some women choose to terminate the pregnancy so that they can get the life-saving treatment they need, while others elect to carry their baby to term and delay cancer therapy, putting their own lives at risk.
Even though there is no reason to think that breast cancer and fertility treatment are linked, it’s far better to rule out breast cancer before you get pregnant. As part of each woman’s initial fertility workup at our fertility center, we perform a thorough breast exam to check for any unusual lumps. If any suspicious areas are found, we will refer you for a mammogram or other imaging study to rule out breast cancer before you start your fertility treatment.
If breast cancer runs in your family, genetic screening may be recommended to find out if you are a carrier of the BRCA or other breast cancer-related genemutions, which could also be passed on to your children.
Don’t skip your breast exam or mammogram
All women of childbearing age should see their OBGYN every year for a wellness exam, including a breast exam. Women in their 40s and beyond should talk to their doctors about when to start yearly mammograms. These important imaging tests help to keep you one step ahead of breast cancer, so that you can stay healthy and be there in the future for the ones you love.
For information about breast cancer and fertility treatment, contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our Los Angeles fertility specialists.