Breast Cancer Awareness Month, observed every October, is a time for the world to raise awareness about the importance of early detection, prevention, and treatment. Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated that breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer among women, with over 2 million new cases diagnosed in 2020 alone.
Breast cancer is a condition characterized by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells within the breast, leading to the formation of tumors. When not appropriately addressed, these tumors have the potential to metastasize and pose a life-threatening risk by spreading to other parts of the body. A variety of factors contribute to this disease, including genetics, age, hormonal factors, and lifestyle choices like alcohol consumption and obesity. Certain genetic mutations, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, can significantly increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. Additionally, increasing age is a well-established risk factor, with most breast cancer diagnoses occurring in women over the age of 50.
Breast cancer symptoms can vary, but some common signs include the presence of a lump in the breast, changes in breast size or shape, nipple discharge, and skin changes, like dimpling or redness. Early detection is critical, as it can significantly improve the prognosis and treatment options. Mammograms, ultrasounds, and biopsies are standard diagnostic tools used by healthcare professionals to confirm a breast cancer diagnosis.
Breast cancer treatment varies depending on the stage and type of cancer but often includes surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy. While these treatments can be lifesaving, they can also have a profound impact on a woman’s fertility. Maintaining fertility and the possibility of having children after a breast cancer diagnosis is an important concern for many women.
Dr. Puja Singh, MBBS, DNB(OBGY), FNB (Reproductive medicine), FMAS, MRCOG-1, Birla Fertility & IVF, Preet Vihar shares some points to consider for women who wish to conceive after a breast cancer diagnosis:
1. Before starting cancer treatment, women should consult with a fertility specialist. Options like egg freezing, embryo preservation, and ovarian tissue preservation may be available.
2.The choice of fertility preservation methods and the timing of these procedures should align with the cancer treatment plan. It’s essential to work closely with healthcare providers to develop a coordinated approach.
3. Regular follow-up visits and discussions with oncologists are necessary to ensure that any potential risks to fertility are monitored and managed throughout the cancer treatment process.
4. If fertility preservation is not an option or if treatment affects fertility, adoption and surrogacy are alternative paths to parenthood that many women consider.
While breast cancer and fertility preservation can present challenges, advancements in medical science offer hope to many women who aspire to have children after their cancer journey.
By supporting and empowering women with breast cancer in their reproductive choices, we take another step towards comprehensive care and a better quality of life for survivors.