Supporting fertility choices for young women diagnosed with breast cancer

May 13th, 2015

As we reflect on Mother’s Day, and the overwhelming success of the Women In Super Mother’s Day Classic, we are reminded of the challenges faced by young women diagnosed with breast cancer who are yet to become mothers themselves.

Every year, almost 800 young women under the age of 40 will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Approximately 60 percent of these women will be yet to start or complete their families. These women face the devastating reality that the very treatment that could save their life, may also take away their chance of having children in the future.

Some breast cancer treatments can result in damage to the ovaries, which can lead to the early onset of menopause. To preserve her fertility a woman can opt to freeze her eggs – which may require her to delay her cancer treatment – or use a course of drugs that shows promise in mitigating the side-effects of chemotherapy on the ovaries.

Untitled-design-(6)Research tells us that some women will make treatment choices based on whether a treatment will impact their fertility. However, due to the urgency to start treatment for breast cancer, women often do not have much time to decide on what treatment course to take. Often, these women do not receive the vital information they need about their fertility preservation options.

Dr Michelle Peate from the University of Melbourne has received an NBCF Early Career Fellowship to improve the fertility preservation information provided to young women diagnosed with breast cancer. Her research made headlines in Melbourne’s The Age this past weekend, as many of us were spending quality time with our own mums.

Through her research, Dr Peate will develop an online tool to help women and their health professionals make decisions about breast cancer treatment and fertility options.

“It is a really important consideration because ultimately we don’t want them to take less effective cancer treatments to reduce their impacts on fertility,” Dr Peate told The Age.

It is hoped that this research will improve young women’s understanding about fertility preservation following a breast cancer diagnosis, and ultimately increase their chances of having children after treatment.

You can see Dr Peate’s research featured in The Age here.