Having a Baby After Cancer

By Kimberly Goad, Woman’s Health

“Side effects of cancer treatments can include early menpoapuse, but there are new medical advances to help female cancer patients preserve their ability to have a baby. Why aren’t doctors talking about this with their patients before treating them?

Shortly before her surgery, Alice found out that an old friend from high school, Patty Bernardo, then 34 and a senior consultant for an I.T. firm in Fairfax, Virginia, had been diagnosed with breast cancer too. Their cases were similar. Like Alice, Patty’s course of treatment included a bilateral mastectomy, breast reconstruction, and chemotherapy, followed by a year on the antiestrogen drug Tamoxifen. Unlike Alice, Patty was married, though she and her husband of 11 years hadn’t yet started a family. When her team of doctors asked her if she had kids, she answered each of them the same way: “Not yet. Maybe someday.” Her breast surgeon said he hated that she wouldn’t be able to breast-feed her future children. Her oncologist was hopeful: Chemo could throw her into premature menopause, he said, but the chances of getting her period back should be high.

Patty says neither doctor talked to her about fertility preservation. Just the opposite, in fact. By the time her original cancer treatment was behind her, her medical team concurred, she’d be 37 still young enough to have a baby. It wasn’t until Alice mentioned her frozen eggs and embryos that Patty even knew of the possibilities. But by then, she had completed chemo. It was too late.

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