The Fertility Center | Blog

Breast Cancer And Preserving Fertility

By Dr. Jesús Alberto Félix Atondo

For many people, October equals Halloween, but this month is not just about ghosts, pumpkins, or witches, it is also breast cancer awareness month. Every year, a campaign is made to raise awareness so we can understand and help those women in their fight against it. Many women dealing with breast cancer want to achieve their dream of starting a family, so today, our team of specialists will discuss fertility treatments for breast cancer patients.

What Is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is a condition in which cells grow out of control in the chest area. There are 3 essential parts of the breast: ducts, lobules, and connective tissue. The lobules are the glands for milk production, the ducts are like tubes carrying the milk to the nipple, and the connective tissue (surrounded by fat) holds everything together.

Most breast cancers begin in the lobules or ducts and can spread outside the breast through blood and lymph vessels. It is known as metastatic breast cancer when it reaches other body parts.

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Breast Cancer Symptoms

Some signs of breast cancer are:

  • Lumps in the breast or underarm.
  • Redness in the nipple area.
  • Changes in the size or shape of breasts.
  • Pain in any part of the breast.
  • Swelling in the breast.

If you or someone you know have these symptoms, we recommend visiting the specialist for a check-up.

Can I Conceive If I’m Currently On A Cancer Treatment?

According to our team of specialists, it depends on which meds are used in chemotherapy, as certain medications can directly affect the ovaries.

How Do Cancer Treatments Affect My Fertility?

  • Chemotherapy. Some medicines used for chemotherapy can lead to infertility. Cytoxan or cyclophosphamide are medicines that damage cancer cells’ DNA so they can’t keep spreading; when given at higher doses, the reproductive organs can be affected. 
  • Radiation treatments. These treatments can damage eggs and sperm, radiation can damage women’s ovaries, and also reduce sperm count in men. These may happen just during the cancer treatment, but there’s also the risk of these being permanent. Sometimes, the specialists preserve the ovaries’ integrity by placing a protective shield over the area before radiation therapy begins.

Cancer treatments that involve radiation to the head to kill cancer cells may harm some parts of the brain, such as the pituitary gland – which produces the hormones that control the menstrual cycle. If this happens, the option of undergoing a hormonal balance treatment can be discussed.

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Which Fertility Treatment Is Suitable For Me?

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer and want to conceive, we suggest embryo freezing before your treatment begins.

 

What Is Embryo Freezing?

Embryo freezing is a process that involves obtaining and storing one or more embryos to preserve them for future use in an In Vitro Fertilization treatment. These embryos result from an egg and sperm fertilization in the laboratory, which was previously treated and is ready to be implanted in a woman’s uterus.

This procedure can be performed as an alternative to preserve fertility, for example, in women with conditions such as breast cancer, in which treatments such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and some surgeries carry the risk of infertility. Also, couples who want to delay parenthood for a few years can go through the embryo cryopreservation process to ensure success when deciding to start a family.

In addition to the above, during In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) treatment, ovarian stimulation, sperm freezing, and egg fertilization are carried out to obtain several embryos, which develop in culture for about six days, reaching the state of embryonic development known as a blastocyst; from this day they can be frozen for future use.

It is important to clarify that only the viable embryos of better quality are the vitrified ones since some do not survive long enough or do not have the characteristics to go through the procedure and offer the possibility of a pregnancy.

Meet Dr. Luis Ruvalcaba and Dr. Jesús Félix, our fertility specialists that will stay with you in every step of your journey.

Embryo Freezing Success Rate

The pregnancy rate is 54.2% with frozen embryos and 44% with live births. This means that frozen embryo transfer provides a very high chance of getting pregnant. With a 95% cumulative pregnancy rate at the third pregnancy attempt.

How Much Does Embryo Freezing Cost In Mexico?

Freezing embryos costs several thousand dollars in the United States, added to the cost of consultations, medications for ovarian stimulation, tests, and the annual price to keep them frozen.

For this reason, more and more couples choose to travel to Tijuana, Mexico, where fertility treatments are given by professionals at a cost twice less.

We know that struggling with breast cancer may be challenging, but we also know how strong your dream of starting a family is. Our staff at The Fertility Center will stay by your side in every part of your journey. Contact us today and schedule an appointment!  

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Dr. Jesús Alberto Félix Atondo

Gynecology, Obstetrics and Biology of Human Reproduction Surgeon at the Autonomous University of Guadalajara, specialist Biologist of Human Reproduction by the Mexican Institute of Infertility.

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