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FERTILITY TREATMENTS AND BREAST CANCER

Many women and men have no trouble getting pregnant, but if you are reading this you are probably not one of them. In your quest to build your family, you likely have had to take medication, and endure doctor’s visits and procedures. In addition to the fear that treatment will not be successful, many patients have concerns about the side effects and the risks associated with the treatment. One of the biggest concerns is that fertility treatment will increase the risk of cancer-particularly breast cancer.

The possibility that fertility drugs may be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer is not unreasonable. After all, the medications that we use in fertility treatments result in the temporary elevation of estrogen and progesterone-hormones to which breast tissue responds.

The good news is that a recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that there was no increase in risk of breast cancer in women undergoing fertility treatment.

In this study, the investigators:

  • followed over 25,000 women for an average of more than 20 years
  • found that IVF treatment (when compared with non-IVF treatment) was not associated with increased risk of breast cancer
  • uncovered that breast cancer risk among IVF-treated women was also not significantly different from that in the general population
  • interestingly found that, breast cancer risk was lower among women who underwent seven or more cycles of IVF compared with those who underwent one or two IVF cycles. Let me be clear…I have a very hard time imagining any of my patients undergoing seven IVF cycles. But, this finding is reassuring because if IVF “caused” breast cancer, those who underwent more IVF cycles should theoretically have a greater risk.

 

In sum, the findings of this study suggest that there is no increase in long-term risk of breast cancer among women undergoing IVF, making it one less thing that individuals and couples undergoing fertility treatment have to worry about.If you continue to have concerns about the side effects of medications, or any other questions associated with fertility treatments, the physicians at RMA are here to answer them.

Jacqueline Gutmann, MD

Dr. Gutmann received her medical degree from the Yale University School of Medicine, and completed her residency and fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the Yale-New Haven Hospital, where she received the Irving Friedman Award for Excellence in Patient Care and was also named a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar. She currently serves on the medical advisory board of the American Fertility Association (AFA). She has been featured on The Learning Channel and in Philadelphia Magazine. She is board certified in OB/GYN and sub-specialty board certified in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility.

Dr. Gutmann is a Clinical Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Thomas Jefferson University. She has also been named a Top Doc by Philadelphia Magazine and physician ratings companies Castle Connelly and Vitals.com.

Call 855-RMA-inPA to set up a consultation with a physician who can help you create a plan for parenthood.