Preserving fertility in breast cancer treatment

Posted at: 05/30/2014 6:31 PM
By: NBC News

Young breast cancer patients are often faced with the difficult decision of choosing treatment that will kill their cancer and also also terminate their ability to get pregnant. 

Now a new study suggests giving women a drug that quiets their ovaries during chemotherapy may preserve their fertility.

Christy Wolford was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was twenty-eight -- just months after getting married and having her first child, her daughter Lauren. 

"There was no option for me to do anything but to figure out how to beat this and beat this the best I could, for her," said Wolford.

She went through a double mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy -- a treatment that renders a majority of patients infertile. 

However, Wolford participated in a clinical trial that added the drug Goserelin to her regimen.

"It essentially shuts down ovarian activity while the patients are on chemotherapy," explained Dr. Sharon Giordano,  Professor of Medicine at MD Anderson Cancer Center

More than 100 women participated in the study. 

Researchers found those given the drug were less likely to experience ovarian failure -- and more likely to get pregnant after chemo.

There were 16 healthy pregnancies among the women given Goserelin, compared to seven among those not treated.  

"It is an exciting study because it does add another option for our young breast cancer patients, and even though the data we have isn't perfect, at least it gives us some evidence that there's something you can do to help preserve your fertility," explained Giordano.

Christy and her husband bubba have had three boys since her treatment ended -- and they give the drug full credit.

"That's kind of our running joke through the house. You can't have an oops moment or else we have number five. So we have to be careful,” he joked.