Although breast cancer can be effectively treated, the treatments used can leave behind lasting effects. Typical chemotherapy regimens (adjuvant and neoadjuvant) cause irreversible damage to a woman’s egg reserve and fertility, as the research of Dr. Oktay and others have shown. Dr. Oktay also pioneered research in the area in his leading research laboratory.
In some instances, hormonal cancer treatments such as tamoxifen are recommended for up to ten years. Because these medications are harmful to any developing baby, one cannot conceive during that time. Dr. Oktay works with your cancer specialist to either carefully plan a break from your hormonal treatment, or use gestational carriers (surrogate mothers) to enable you to have children while you’re undergoing such treatments.
Chemotherapy agents can also weaken the heart muscle or impair the kidney’s normal functioning. If your body isn’t healthy enough to carry a pregnancy, Dr. Oktay may recommend a gestational carrier to bear the child.
A woman who's been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer may still be able to bear a child if her ovaries are still functional, and she's received a clean bill of health from her oncologist. A woman who’s had enough time to have her ovary or eggs harvested and preserved cryogenically, and has become menopausal as a result of chemotherapy, will be able to draw from that resource once she’s cleared of cancer.
Research has also shown no harm in conceiving and having a baby after having been diagnosed with breast cancer and properly treated. Some studies even showed benefits of pregnancy.
Dr. Oktay will thoroughly evaluate your health to determine if the vital organs have incurred any damage. If any damage is present, he may recommend using a gestational carrier. If you're in otherwise good health and have no physical repercussions from the treatments you’ve received, he may allow you to attempt a pregnancy.
Once a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer, she has several available options, especially if she'd like to keep the option of possibly bearing a child in the future. These include egg or embryo freezing with Dr. Oktay’s ovarian stimulation method using letrozole or tamoxifen so that you aren’t exposed to dangerous effects of high estrogen hormone levels. Harvesting ovarian tissue for freezing allows women to both save their eggs and preserve their body's ability to produce hormones naturally.