Fear is a common feeling for anyone looking into fertility treatment. People are scared about having a healthy baby, the possibility of multiples, and the risk of developing cancer from fertility treatments. But do fertility drugs cause cancer? I spoke with Dr. Alan B. Copperman, director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Mount Sinai Hospital, who gave me some more detailed information that anyone trying to conceive (or TTC ) should know about treatments STAT.
"Infertility is more common than you think," Copperman tells Romper. "More than seven million women right now are dealing with infertility." One of the most successful ways to treat infertility is with drugs, specifically Gonal-F, which helps ovaries produce eggs by providing follicle stimulating hormone, Follistim, used to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs, also by using follicle stimulating hormone, and Menopur, which stimulates egg growth with a combination of follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone. So, now that you know your basic infertility drugs, listen up. According to Copperman, they do not cause cancer.
There is "no evidence of fertility treatments causing cancer." He notes that "these drugs have been in use for over 70 years," and that if there was a risk for cancer, the medical community would know about it by now.
Dr. Cynthia Austin, director of the In-Vitro Fertilization Program at the Cleveland Clinic, also told Parents that IVF drugs do not cause cancer. But because of the fear that surrounds infertility, its treatments, and its outcomes, there are some things you need to know about treating infertility with drugs.
1. Get A Targeted Diagnosis Of What's Causing Infertility
First and foremost, you have to figure out what's causing infertility. Do not make assumptions based on age. "A woman has a physiological age and a chronological age," Copperman explains. "A 35-year-old-woman can be making plenty of good eggs, while a younger woman might not be."
Your physician, most likely a reproductive endocrinologist, will provide you with a targeted diagnosis. "For a woman, infertility can be caused by the eggs, uterus, or fallopian tubes," Copperman says. "Everything needs to be tested before you begin any infertility treatment." For couples in a heterosexual relationship, the sperm should be tested as well to make sure that it's viable.
2. Always Discuss Treatment Risks With Your Physician
The bottom line is when it comes to your health, you need to realize that every body is different. Dr. Shayma Master Kazmi, a medical oncologist and hematologist with the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Philadelphia, told Parents that even women who are at risk for breast cancer can undergo fertility treatment. "Every woman needs to discuss her individual risks and benefits with her provider," she said. Never take medical advice from a friend, website, or medical journal. Only your doctor can help you discuss risks of any treatment. That's what they're there for.
3. Decrease Cancer Risks By Staying Vigilant Of General Health
It's also important to note that women who are TTC get so focussed on fertility, "that they tend to forget their Pap smear, their mammogram, their dental checkup, and other general health care," Austin told Parents. "A woman's overall health affects pregnancy, so part of the fertility team's job is to remind women they still need to take care of those things." In short, everything in your body is connected, and there's no better time to be vigilant about your health than when your TTC.
With this in mind, women TTC can discuss the cutting-edge technology in reproductive health with their physicians so they can ultimately have the family they want.