Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 26 March 2021
Table of contents
Cancer Treatment, Premature Menopause, and Infertility
In the United States, over a fifth of the almost 285,000 people diagnosed with breast cancer per year have not reached menopause.
Any breast cancer chemotherapy and hormone therapy medications can result in lifelong or temporary infertility or early menopause. Since certain chemotherapy medications have been attributed to child defects, women who have not yet reached menopause can use birth control when undergoing these procedures.
Chemotherapy-induced menopause affects 10% to 50% of women under the age of 40 and 50% to 94% of women above the age of 40. Following chemotherapy, you can experience months or even years of ovarian dysfunction.
Radiation treatment would not induce infertility unless both ovaries are targeted. Your ovaries can be surgically removed or radiated to reduce the amount of oestrogen the body produces, depending on the form and degree of breast cancer. This will result in infertility for the remainder of your life.
Women with breast cancer who wish to start or grow their families later should think about fertility preservation options before starting therapy. There are some of them:
- Freezing eggs or embryos.
- Egg donation. After chemotherapy therapy, eggs from a donor can be fertilised and implanted.
- Hormonal suppression of the reproductive organs. Hormones are used to place the reproductive organs in a dormant (inactive) state in this process. It appears to shield germ cells (cells that turn into eggs) from chemotherapy disruption. This method is still being researched.
- Freezing ovarian tissue. Reimplanting formerly frozen ovarian tissue recovered a woman’s ovarian function for the first time in 1999. This procedure does not involve ovarian stimulation, although it is not commonly accessible.
Tips to Help You Choose
Despite the reality that there are certain common breast cancer treatment regimens, women have options.
- Discuss all of the complications and advantages of each medication plan with your doctor, as well as how they can impact your lifestyle.
- Consider being a member of a support network. Other breast cancer patients recognise what you’re going through and will bring you support and guidance. They may even be able to assist you with making a treatment decision.
- Ask the doctor if you should enrol in a clinical trial, which is a scientific study that examines experimental therapies until they are made accessible to the general population.
Side Effects of Treatment
The bulk of breast cancer therapies have harmful side effects. When the treatment is over, these often stop. Some may appear later. The following are examples of common side effects:
- Weight gain or loss
- Arm swelling
- Hair loss
- Skin or nail changes
- Mouth sores
- Symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes
- Trouble getting pregnant
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble thinking clearly (“chemo brain")
Referenced on 26.3.2021
- CDC: “Breast Cancer Treatment."
- Novartis Oncology.
- Pfizer Oncology.
- American Cancer Society.
- Susan Brown, Director of Education, Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
- Terri Ades, RN, director of cancer information, American Cancer Society.
- American Cancer Society: “Detailed Guide: Breast Cancer,” “What’s new in breast cancer research and treatment?" “How is breast cancer treated?" “Surgery for breast cancer," “Radiation therapy for breast cancer," “Chemotherapy for breast cancer," “Hormone therapy for breast cancer," “Targeted therapy for breast cancer."
- Breast Cancer Network of Strength: “Losing your hair,” “Weight Gain,” “Lymphedema."
- Breastcancer.org: “Treatment Side Effects,” “Shorter Radiation Regimen Causes Fewer Side Effects, Offers Better Quality of Life Than Traditional Regimen," “What Is Complementary Medicine?” “Depression.”
- Lookgoodfeelbetter.org: “Contact Us.”
- Penn Medicine: “Penn Study: Majority of Women with Early-Stage Breast Cancer in U.S. Receive Unnecessarily Long Courses of Radiation."
- Giordano, S. Journal of Clinical Oncology, May 2012.
- The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center: “Accelerated partial breast irradiation."
- Susan G. Komen: “Tumor Profiling – Personalizing Treatment for Breast Cancer," “Late Effects of Breast Cancer Treatment."
- National Cancer Institute: “Complementary and Alternative Medicine,” “Clinical Trials for Complementary or Alternative Medicine Procedure(s).”
- Living Beyond Breast Cancer: “Complementary and integrative medicine for metastatic breast cancer.”
- Cancer.net: “Breast Cancer – Metastatic: Palliative Care.”
- Mayo Clinic: “Cancer Treatment.”