Post-Breast Cancer Pregnancy Rate Boosted by Egg Freezing: Study

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Jan. 23, 2024 – Kasey Vaillancourt and her hubby were trying to get pregnant erstwhile she was diagnosed with bosom cancer astatine property 36. Her oncologist told her she whitethorn not beryllium capable to safely transportation a gestation owed to nan consequence of her crab coming back. Vaillancourt and her hubby utilized a fertility session to create and frost embryos, and they started researching surrogacy, perchance pinch Vaillancourt’s sister carrying nan pregnancy.

Amid nan abrupt move successful her family readying vision, Vaillancourt had a uncommon complication during ovum retrieval wherever her belly and lungs became filled pinch fluid that later had to beryllium drained during a infirmary stay. Three days later, she had room to region some of her breasts, and went connected to do 12 rounds of a people of chemotherapy that has a history of damaging women’s fertility.

“The thought of perchance not being capable to person kids was disheartening for some maine and my husband,” said Vaillancourt, whose desire to beryllium a mother was peculiarly fueled by becoming an aunt and seeing her sister’s mother-daughter relationship. “We didn’t cognize what this test meant. Are we going to beryllium capable to person a family? Being older arsenic well, it’s for illustration your timepiece is moving out, aliases immoderate nan cliché saying is.”

Then, Vaillancourt publication astir a study astir nan information of gestation aft bosom crab called the POSITIVE Trial. After asking her oncologist to propulsion it up during an appointment, they agreed she could effort for a baby. The mates utilized successful vitro fertilization because, erstwhile her master “did nan scans of my ovaries, she said, ‘I’m truthful gladsome you did this preservation because your ovaries are quiet,’” recalled Vaillancourt, who is now 39 years old.

This past May, her girl Mae Vaillancourt was born.

Now, a 2nd group of results from nan aforesaid study show much bully news for young women who want to go pregnant aft being treated for bosom cancer. Among nan 497 women successful nan latest analysis, each of whom were nether property 43 and had early-stage, hormone-sensitive bosom cancer, 74% sewage pregnant during a planned region from semipermanent curen that helps forestall nan crab from recurring.

Along pinch nan hope-inducing occurrence rate, nan caller findings showed location was nary importantly accrued consequence of recurrence among women who had fertility preservation earlier crab curen aliases who utilized assisted reproductive methods for illustration successful vitro fertilization, aliases IVF.

The results are important because much women are being diagnosed pinch bosom crab during their reproductive years. One estimate shows that among 30-year-old women, 1 successful 204 will beryllium diagnosed pinch bosom cancer. Among 40-year-olds, 1 successful 65 will beryllium diagnosed. Researchers person been racing to analyse whether not conscionable pregnancy, but besides fertility and reproductive medicine, impact nan early risks of bosom crab patients because galore bosom cancers are delicate to hormones for illustration estrogen that spike during gestation aliases erstwhile utilizing reproductive technologies. 

separate study besides published past period showed that women pinch bosom crab who transportation definite genes that raise their likelihood of nan disease, known arsenic BRCA mutations, besides do not person a heightened consequence of bosom crab recurrence aft pregnancy, and nan mothers and babies had nary different information risks.

The POSITIVE Trial, Part 2 

These caller investigation findings supply moreover much assurance astir nan information of gestation aft bosom cancer, and connection guidance connected what mightiness summation nan chances of having a babe aft treatments for illustration chemotherapy that whitethorn harm a woman’s fertility.

A twelvemonth ago, nan landmark first findings of nan POSITIVE Trial showed that women pinch hormone-sensitive bosom crab could safely return a 2-year break from protective treatments successful bid to effort to go pregnant. The caller secondary results from POSITIVE examined really nan often hormone-heavy processes of preserving a woman’s eggs aliases utilizing techniques for illustration embryo transportation aft IVF impact nan likelihood of a woman’s crab coming back.

One cardinal caller uncovering was that location was nary important summation successful recurrence rates for women who had a process called ovarian stimulation for cryopreservation (when nan ovaries are treated pinch medications to nutrient eggs, which are past stiff for later use), compared to women who didn’t. The recurrence complaint wrong 3 years for some groups was astir 9%. Ovarian stimulation typically happens earlier a woman’s eggs are harvested, aft which they're stiff aliases utilized to create embryos.

Another awesome uncovering showed that property was nan only important predictor of really quickly women successful nan study sewage pregnant. Timing is cardinal because nan women only had 2 years to region their protective treatments while trying to get pregnant arsenic a portion of nan study. The results showed that:

  • Among women nether property 35, 64% sewage pregnant wrong 1 year, and 80% sewage pregnant wrong 2 years.
  • Among women ages 40 to 42 years old, 38% sewage pregnant wrong 1 year, and 50% sewage pregnant wrong 2 years.

The researchers looked astatine galore different things that they suspected mightiness effect really quickly women successful nan study would go pregnant, including erstwhile nan women’s periods returned aft treatment, whether they were treated pinch chemotherapy, and whether they’d had a babe before. 

“These were things that we did not find astatine each had immoderate impact. It was only property – nan younger nan patient, nan shorter nan clip to go pregnant,” said Hatem A. Azim Jr., MD, PhD, who presented nan findings astatine the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium past month.

The researchers looked astatine nan galore paths toward gestation of group successful nan study, including preservation techniques done astatine nan clip of their crab diagnosis, arsenic good arsenic assisted reproduction techniques done erstwhile trying to get pregnant later, for illustration transportation of precocious created embryos aliases embryos that had been created, frozen, and past stored astatine nan clip of diagnosis.

Women who had cryopreserved embryo transportation had much than double nan occurrence complaint of getting pregnant, compared to women successful nan study who didn’t usage immoderate assisted reproductive methods.

“One mobility could be, shall we connection assisted reproduction aliases [egg] aliases embryo preservation for women, and evidently nan short reply is, this would beryllium great,” Azim said. “Particularly erstwhile it comes to [egg] aliases embryo cryopreservation, this would beryllium awesome truthful that we tin benignant of guarantee, to a awesome extent, fertility successful nan future.”

Retrieving Eggs Before Treating Cancer 

For anyone facing a crab diagnosis, nan slew of tests, curen decisions, and appointments tin capable some nan person’s headspace and calendar. For astatine slightest a decade, the standard of care for young women pinch bosom crab has been to counsel them that curen could harm their fertility, and they should beryllium referred to a reproduction master for a consultation.

POSITIVE Trial researchers stress really important it is for nan study results to go wide known, because immoderate oncologists are still advising their patients that gestation isn’t safe.

Breast crab curen tin easy past nan remainder of a young woman’s reproductive years. Some treatments that trim nan chance of recurrence are taken for up to a decade. With galore women delaying having children, nan model for starting aliases completing a family amid a bosom crab test tin go very small, and nan likelihood of a successful and safe gestation go worse arsenic a female ages.

Kristen Johannessen, DO, raced to get her eggs preserved earlier starting curen for bosom crab successful 2022. She was conscionable 8 months into her caller occupation successful Williamsburg, VA, aft completing training arsenic a doctor. Already successful her mid-30s, she knew she wanted to do fertility preservation.

“The agency that I went to locally for my oncologist, they couldn’t connection maine thing locally here. Most women present are post-menopausal,” she said.

She had to cold-call fertility clinics and scrambled to find 1 that could fresh her successful earlier she started chemotherapy, which would beryllium followed by a double mastectomy. 

Johannessen had small savings and a heap of student loans from aesculapian school, truthful she put nan astir $14,000 costs of fertility preservation connected in installments cards. She spent hours researching analyzable financial assistance programs for crab patients, 1 of which offered a medicine discount for a fertility supplier that was connected backorder for months. Instead of paying for an replacement supplier recommended by her doctor, programme officials told her she had to hold until nan backordered 1 came backmost successful stock. Since she had chemotherapy and room coming up, she charged nan readily disposable supplier to her in installments card.

Johannessen is presently astir a twelvemonth distant from nan clip play considered safe for her to region her preventive medications for 2 years while she tries to get pregnant. In nan meantime, she’s paying $1,000 a twelvemonth to shop her stiff eggs. She knows that there’s a chance those eggs won’t lead to a successful pregnancy, and she whitethorn request to person much retrieved for much gestation attempts. But nan latest information from nan POSITIVE Trial makes her consciousness much comfortable astir doing that if needed, she said. 

“Looking astatine nan information and seeing that not only is it appearing to beryllium safe for maine to acquisition a region from my medication, but besides safe to do fertility medications erstwhile again and spell done nan process of that, I consciousness for illustration it opened a caller doorway to much options,” said Johannessen, who turns 37 astatine nan extremity of January. “Through this process, you consciousness for illustration doors conscionable support closing, and it’s bully to consciousness for illustration 1 yet opened.”

Is Fertility Preservation Accessible? 

Facing a short 24-month model to effort to get pregnant leads immoderate women to skip trying to get pregnant nan old-fashioned way, which aesculapian professionals telephone nan “spontaneous” method. Many young bosom crab survivors move consecutive to assisted reproductive technologies (ART). In nan POSITIVE Trial, which only included women who wanted to get pregnant, half of them had fertility preservation astatine nan clip of diagnosis, and 43% of nan women utilized astatine slightest 1 ART method, specified arsenic embryo transfer.

The costs are staggering, typically topping good complete $10,000 for preservation earlier treatment, and ART costs astatine slightest different $15,000. Most security plans don’t screen preservation aliases ART.

Just getting that reproduction consultation that master aesculapian organizations opportunity should beryllium recommended for each young crab patients mightiness beryllium retired of scope for galore people. (Vaillancourt, whose babe was calved successful May, said she had to salary $350 upfront conscionable to unafraid a consultation appointment.)

At nan University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Center, nan consultation is now portion of each young bosom crab patient’s first group of appointments, said Jennifer Keating Litton, MD, MHCM, a professor of bosom aesculapian oncology astatine nan center. But she noted that it’s uncommon to person a reproductive endocrinologist connected unit successful an oncology department.

“Having that reproductive endocrinology and having nan expertise to frost eggs is conscionable not disposable to everyone astatine that time. A batch of times, that’s [an] out-of-pocket-expense connected apical of everything other going on, aliases I person immoderate patients show maine they’re emotion truthful overwhelmed because they’re dealing pinch crab and chemo and surgery, that they benignant of put that to nan side,” Litton said. “But for me, nan take-home of that insubstantial was location was a important information of women who underwent immoderate benignant of reproductive exertion aft nan full curen and still had improved results, and still we were not seeing nan information signals.”

She cautioned that nan follow-up play among women successful nan study was conscionable 3 years and said she is hopeful that nan information findings will clasp arsenic nan researchers proceed to show nan women arsenic portion of nan research. Litton besides stressed that nan champion clip for young bosom crab patients to get a reproductive consultation is earlier nan commencement of treatment.

There’s nary general measurement of really galore young bosom crab patients are really advised to activity a reproductive consultation earlier starting treatment, and it’s besides not known really galore simply can’t spend it aliases can’t spend fertility preservation.

There is simply a activity calling for fertility preservation to beryllium covered by insurance, and since 2017, location person been laws passed by 16 states positive nan District of Columbia regarding fertility preservation, according to the Alliance for Fertility Preservation. In immoderate ways, nan efforts are akin to those that resulted successful the federal rule passed successful 1998 requiring astir security plans that screen mastectomies to besides screen bosom reconstruction.

Patients who interaction nan Alliance for Fertility Preservation are typically looking for wherever to spell for a consultation, aliases looking for resources to thief them salary for fertility preservation services, said Executive Director Joyce Reinecke, JD.

“There is simply a hesitancy to really picture services and connection services to personification erstwhile they really person nary intends to salary for those services. This is what I’m proceeding from nan oncologists that are a portion of our squad – that location is simply a reluctance to talk these services successful a complete way, peculiarly for women, because they are truthful overmuch much costly than for men,” Reinecke said. “So we deliberation security sum would reside nan financial obstruction directly, and it would besides facilitate referrals for services.”

But there’s besides a inclination nationwide for consciousness astir fertility considerations among women and among employers. Large employers for illustration tech companies that compete for talent person made headlines for offering ovum freezing benefits arsenic a recruitment tool. 

Beth Kirkpatrick was diagnosed pinch bosom crab astatine 39 years old, and sewage nan results connected New Year’s Eve successful 2020. But backmost erstwhile she was 36, she had her eggs frozen.

“It’s benignant of trendy successful New York nowadays. There are a batch of companies that connection this arsenic portion of their benefits package, for illustration Google and Facebook will salary for your ovum freezing, and because of that, particularly successful New York, location are clinics that person opened up that specialize successful ovum freezing only,” said Kirkpatrick, who is simply a Broadway performer surviving successful New York City. “So traditionally, if you went to a fertility session to get your eggs frozen, you’re spending astatine slightest $15,000. But now, to make it benignant of speedy and easy, I went to a spot called Extend Fertility, and they’re benignant of popping up everywhere, and they specialize successful ovum freezing, truthful they’re a small spot much affordable.” 

She said nan situation of nan session was developed by hospitality manufacture experts, and nan vibe is “cool and nosy and nary stress.” 

Kirkpatrick said much needs to beryllium done by nan nationalist wellness assemblage to dispersed fertility knowledge for each women, not conscionable bosom crab patients, particularly amid decisions to hold starting a family successful bid to beforehand a profession aliases first go much financially stable.

Kirkpatrick, who is single, has completed nan required 2 years of protective hormone-suppressing therapy that reduces nan consequence of recurrence and is preparing to effort for a pregnancy. She intends to go a azygous mom and usage a sperm donor, who successful this lawsuit happens to beryllium a adjacent friend from precocious school. 

She has intimately been pursuing nan POSITIVE Trial results, utilizing them arsenic a guideline and a reassurance connected her way toward motherhood. 

“It’s emotionally very weird to return narcotics for illustration estrogen and progesterone, knowing that they were nan narcotics that fed my cancer,” Kirkpatrick said. “There’s thing astir having had crab that’s ever going to beryllium successful nan backmost of your mind, particularly having had it young. But I return bosom successful nan truth that nan proceedings tells america that statistically, this looks good, and subject besides tells america that mothers unrecorded longer than non-mothers … truthful I dream to unrecorded arsenic agelong arsenic I perchance tin and return attraction of myself and return attraction of my child. It’s exciting.”

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