HER2+ Early-Stage Breast Cancer

Fertility Options

Becoming a mother may be a part of your life plan, but certain types of treatments can affect your ability to start or maintain a pregnancy. If you are premenopausal and are concerned about your ability to have a child in the future, be proactive about exploring fertility preservation before beginning treatment.

Only you know your hopes and expectations for motherhood, so if your doctor doesn’t bring it up, you should. You may be referred to a reproductive specialist who will learn more about you, your diagnosis and your treatment plan and then will discuss the possibilities of fertility preservation with you.

Breast cancer drug therapies may affect your fertility temporarily or permanently by altering the number and health of your eggs. Some breast cancer treatments are not considered safe during pregnancy or while attempting to become pregnant. Following are some topics to discuss with your doctor or reproductive specialist. Remember to consult with your insurance carrier to find out if any of the expenses are covered.

Types of drug therapy. Some combinations of therapies may affect your menstrual cycle. For example, your period may stop temporarily. In some cases, it may stop permanently, or it may not change at all. Ask your doctor what to expect from your treatment so you can factor this in to your fertility preservation plan.

Embryo cryopreservation. This involves having your eggs collected, fertilized, frozen and stored for use later.

Egg freezing. This involves having your eggs collected, frozen and stored for use later. They are not fertilized.

Gonadal shielding. If you have radiation therapy, having the technician strategically place a protective shield can reduce the amount of radiation exposure to your reproductive organs.

Ovarian transposition (oophoropexy). This involves surgically repositioning your ovaries to protect them from damage during radiation therapy. This is usually not necessary for post-lumpectomy or post-mastectomy chest irradiation.

Clinical trials. You may be a candidate for fertility-related clinical trials. They may offer alternatives that are not yet available to the general public. Ask your doctor if a clinical trial may increase your fertility preservation options.

Your fertility can be affected after a single treatment, and your preservation options will likely become much more limited as treatment progresses. If possible, be prepared to include fertility preservation in the conversation you have with your doctor about treatment options.

Keep in mind that some fertility preservation procedures may delay treatment. You don’t want to jeopardize your health, and it is very important to talk with your doctor about timing. If your doctor recommends that you start treatment immediately, know that other options for being a mother may be available to you.

Don’t neglect follow-up care. Once treatment is complete, meet with your reproductive specialist or endocrinologist to monitor your fertility. You may be advised to wait for a certain period of time after having treatment before trying to become pregnant. If your period has not returned when you think it should have, tests can be run to determine why.

Making this type of life choice before you’re ready can add a tremendous amount of stress to an already tough situation. Being proactive about your desires for motherhood and understanding your options fully may help you make more informed, confident decisions. Talking with a licensed counselor may help.

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