Anyone can develop breast cancer at any age. Though the risk increases with age, about 9% of new breast cancer cases occur in people younger than age 45. Breast cancer in younger women is more common in African American women, and it’s usually a more aggressive type.
You can survive a breast cancer diagnosis thanks to advances in treatments, but these treatments can affect reproductive health.
At MS Family Medicine Health Care PC in Rosedale and Garden City, New York, Michele Reed, DO, FAAFP, and our team of compassionate providers take a comprehensive and integrative approach to care. We’re committed to our community, and we’re proactive about wellness and preventive care.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we want to talk about the effects that breast cancer can have on reproductive health.
Breast cancer in younger women
Younger women may not worry all that much about breast cancer. In fact, breast cancer screenings aren’t recommended until age 40, and women can push them off until they reach age 45.
However, breast cancer can occur in younger women, and when it does, it’s usually a more aggressive type. Furthermore, it’s usually discovered at a later stage.
Breast cancer treatment and fertility
Surgery to remove the cancerous tissue is the primary treatment for breast cancer. Furthermore, most people with breast cancer require more than one treatment, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or hormone therapy.
Unfortunately, some of these treatments can affect reproductive health. Chemotherapy, for example, can damage the ovaries, affecting ovulation. You may also need to take estrogen-blocking medication following breast cancer treatment to reduce the risk of the cancer returning. Most types of breast cancer are estrogen-receptive, meaning estrogen plays a role in cancer cell growth.
Damage to the ovaries and suppression of estrogen production may lead to early menopause, which could cause irregular periods, vaginal dryness, and hot flashes. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy might also damage your eggs, which could affect your fertility.
Protecting your reproductive health
The long-term effects of breast cancer and its treatment on reproductive health can vary. Some women can get pregnant, while others cannot.
If you’re diagnosed with breast cancer and want to have children in the future, you need to meet with a fertility specialist before you start cancer treatments. They can talk with you about your reproductive health and your fertility options, including egg freezing and in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Also, because of the link between estrogen and most types of breast cancer, traditional hormone replacement therapy isn’t recommended. However, if you struggle with the symptoms of menopause, there are treatments that may help, such as antidepressants for hot flashes and vaginal lubricants for dryness.
Do you have concerns about breast cancer? We can talk with you about your risks and when to start screenings. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with MS Family Medicine Health Care PC today.