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Chemotherapy doesn’t have to make you infertile

Breast cancer patients have been offered new hope after a breakthrough drug has been shown to reduce the risk of women becoming infertile following chemotherapy.

Young women with the disease should be treated with the drug, Goserelin, to ‘stall’ the menopause process which happens as a result of chemotherapy, increasing the likelihood of them conceiving a child afterwards, a new study has said.

Martin Ledwick, Cancer Research UK’s head information nurse said, “It’s good to see further research into making treatments kinder for breast cancer patients. It can be very difficult for women when chemotherapy causes early menopause.”

Dr Kathy Albain, of Loyola University Medical Center is the senior researcher for the study, and said that, “We found that, in addition to reducing the risk of early menopause, and all of the symptoms that go along with menopause, Goserelin was very safe and may even improve survival.” She added that the study’s findings would change the clinical practice, stating “Pre-menopausal women beginning chemotherapy for early breast cancer should consider this new option to prevent premature ovarian failure.”

Currently, 10,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women under 50 every year in the UK, and many younger women worry that receiving their treatment will leave them unable to conceive later on in life. On average, 50-66% of young women go through early menopause as a result of chemotherapy. Dr Albain said that, “The effects can be devastating on quality of life, especially as these women are going through a menopause ten or 15 years earlier than they would have done and really quite suddenly. Two thirds of the women in our study were aged under 40.”

Goserelin is administered via injection, and works by temporarily putting the ovaries ‘to sleep’ during chemotherapy, preventing patients from ovulating whilst they go through treatment and preserves fertility.

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