Being a mom after overcoming breast cancerMaría Arellano
One of our biggest fears as women is suffering from breast cancer and, if we do get diagnosed with it, we always wonder if it’ll prevent us from having kids.
A few years ago, it was different – along with the illness came the pain of seeing your dreams of being a biological mom get crushed, because, after overcoming it, the effects of chemo and radiotherapy made motherhood, in most cases, impossible. Fortunately, nowadays we have a lot more means to preserve the fertility of those with breast cancer.
Many cancer treatments cause damage to the oocytes, which, most of the time, is irreversible. These treatments can affect fertility since the medicines affect the ovarian function directly and the older the patient is, the more difficult it is to get pregnant after completing the treatment. It’s said that those treatments add 10 years to the patient’s childbearing years, which turns out to be a disadvantage because the age at which women are being diagnosed with breast cancer is decreasing as time goes by and, at the same time, women are postponing motherhood even more.
Fortunately, there are three techniques to preserve women’s fertility, always before treating the tumor: embryo cryopreservation, egg vitrification and ovarian tissue preservation.
The most common one is egg vitrification, since maybe the patient doesn’t have a stable partner or she doesn’t want to freeze embryos for personal reasons. Once you’ve overcome the disease and when you decide it’s time to have children, your eggs (which will have kept the quality and characteristics of your age when they were frozen), will be devitrified and go through an in vitro fertilization process to create embryos that will allow you to get pregnant.
It would be advisable to wait two years after completing the cancer treatment, as a prevention measure to avoid relapses. Ideally, you should visit your oncologist so that he or she can determine your possibilities of becoming a mother according to your ovarian function, as well as your chances of getting pregnant naturally. Before pregnancy, a regular breast examination should be performed in addition to a blood test. Also, ideally, a breast examination should be performed every quarter during pregnancy, as well as another one at the end of the breastfeeding period.
As you can see, the chances of being a mom after overcoming this disease are increasing, and what’s more, there are no studies showing abnormalities in the babies of these brave moms.
There’s still a lot of work to be done on this issue. There’s especially a great lack of information for women suffering from this disease. It would be very important for hospitals to increase their efforts to inform patients who are going to undergo chemotherapy about the options they have to preserve their fertility, as well as to offer the proper fertility treatment to those who are already receiving cancer treatment.
Cheer up! You’re not alone!