Oncofertility

Upcoming in the August 4 issue of Newsweek, available online now, an article on the proliferating field of oncofertility, assisted reproduction for women with cancer:

When Annie Dauer's oncologist told her she'd need a [adult!] stem-cell transplant to cure her non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Dauer's first thought wasn't about death but about life.

villarreal.jpg

"I asked what would happen to my fertility," she says. Her oncologist dismissed the question: " 'Honey, you're fighting for your life; forget the fertility at this point,' she told me."

But Dauer, then 30 and newly married, pressed the subject until the oncologist referred her to a fertility specialist. Since Dauer's chemotherapy regimen would most likely destroy her body's egg supply, the specialist, in an experimental procedure, removed one of her ovaries, froze it and reimplanted it when Dauer recovered....

Three years later, Dauer, now cancer-free, and her husband, Greg, have a 2-year-old daughter, Sienna, and a second baby on the way.

Welcome to the burgeoning world of oncofertility....

Of the 125,000 people under the age of 45 who are diagnosed with cancer each year, roughly half will receive treatments that will affect their fertility. The cancers that most commonly strike the young - leukemias, lymphomas and breast cancers - require some of the most toxic forms of chemotherapy, which target rapidly growing and fragile cells like hair follicles, sperm and eggs.

Continue reading the story at Newsweek.com.

The photo above, courtesy of Newsweek, is not of Dauer but of 32-year-old breast cancer patient Ronny Villarreal, holding her 4-month-old daugher Maddy Hunt. Villarreal's breast cancer returned during her 2nd trimester with a now uncertain prognosis:

"We are trying our hardest to stay positive," she says. "We have so much to live for."

More, certainly, than if she never had the chance to get pregnant at all.

I've read that the connection between abortion and breast cancer has placed a stigma on women with breast cancer. I'm not accusing Villarreal of having a history of abortion but do consider the sad irony of abortees who contract breast cancer, only then to realize how precious are conception, pregnancy, and children.


Comments:

While we certainly can't attribute every case of breast cancer to being post-abortive, we also can't dismiss other factors such as late first full-term pregnancy and/or years of using birth control (both of which are compounded when there's a family history of breast cancer).

Posted by: Cranky Catholic at August 1, 2008 6:46 AM


While we certainly can't attribute every case of breast cancer to being post-abortive, we also can't dismiss other factors such as late first full-term pregnancy and/or years of using birth control (both of which are compounded when there's a family history of breast cancer).

Posted by: Cranky Catholic at August 1, 2008 6:46 AM

And if somg were here, he would soundly dismiss all of the above! I agree with you Cranky Catholic, these lifestyle choices are negatively affecting women's health. However, it appears the right to contracept and the right to abortion are so sacrosanct that it would appear women are willing to sacrifice almost everything for them - including their lives.

Posted by: Patricia at August 1, 2008 7:39 AM


The epidemic of breast cancer in this country is a relatively recent phenomenon, at least in so far as the amount of press it has received. In the middle of the last century, one hardly ever heard of it. There has to be something that has occurred in the last few decades that has made it so much more common, and of course the timing of Roe makes abortion a likely suspect.

And the curious fact that even after several decades of research, our medical community has not pointed the finger at that "likely suspect" makes one wonder if political correctness might not be a factor in their silence.

So like the article suggests, there is now a "stigma" on breast cancer, and abortion is usually the first thing that comes to mind whenever it is discussed.

Posted by: Doyle Chadwick at August 1, 2008 7:50 AM


When I taught preschool, we had a little girl named Haley. She was a pistol. I remember telling her parents that the best way to "fix" her, was to have another baby. Take all the adulation off of Haley and help her realize that the world didn't revolve around her. We were only joking, but those parents took what we said to heart and sure enough, they had another little girl. And Haley, became one of our favorites. We still saw the parents after Haley left the preschool and went on to kindergarten (she was with us for two years). At the end of her last year her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. We were devastated!

Anywho, I saw her mom and Dad last year at a neighborhood festival. She was doing okay, and was pregnant again. She had to make some tough decisions, but as the pregnancy progressed, her cancer flared up and she couldn't receive chemo anymore. She decided to continue the pregnancy.
Gave birth to a little girl 5 months ago.

Tomorrow, I will be going to her funeral. She passed away last week.

Posted by: mk at August 1, 2008 8:07 AM


Aw, I'm sorry, MK.

Posted by: Jill Stanek at August 1, 2008 8:13 AM


MK,
I am so sorry.

Posted by: Carla at August 1, 2008 8:32 AM


I'm sorry, MK.

Posted by: Alexandra at August 1, 2008 8:44 AM


My sympathies, MK :/

Well I read an actual scientific article that a definite hypothesis is that people now are waiting to get pregnant until later, or don't get pregnant at all. That a risk factor may be having a lot of consecutive periods.

Posted by: prettyinpink at August 1, 2008 8:48 AM


Doyle, do you have any sources on rates of breast cancer? I think they've probably risen alongside other cancers, which have overall become increasingly common; but it's something that's always been around. I actually think that the first known description of a human cancer is of breast cancer, from the Egyptians. And I know that John Adams' daughter died of breast cancer. I think that there was just so little they could do about it for so long, as opposed to now where there is the possibility of better treatments always over the next horizon, which probably explains some of the increased public awareness for fundraising, etc.

I don't know of anyone who attaches a stigma to breast cancer.

Posted by: Alexandra at August 1, 2008 8:52 AM


Mk: I'm so sorry. I will pray for this wonderful mom and for her family too.

You know PIP you have a point: I read somewhere that the average woman now has between 500 and 600 periods over her reproductive years. That's alot of bleeding. A woman's body was not designed to do this.
I have a rest from periods for about 11.5 years. Over the span of 4 pregnancies and nursings. Two things happened: first there was a positive change in my breast tissue (note: Breast cancer does not run in my family) and my periods which were terrible prior to pregnancy were very mild and much shorter. PMS symptoms also diminished. To my mind, this 11.5 year hiatus was good for my body.

Posted by: Patricia at August 1, 2008 8:54 AM


Another real life St. Gianna! What a wonderful woman, MK.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord. And may perpetual light shine upon her. May the souls of the faithfully departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.

Posted by: Bobby Bambino at August 1, 2008 8:55 AM


Alexandra,
I don't know that I attach a stigma but I do wonder what the cause is. Synthetic estrogen? Hormones in meat? Abortion? I have seen this cancer devastate so many young women and their young families. If there is something we can do with prevention let's go after it.

I do data entry for medical billing of breast cancer screenings. I pray as I work for so many of the women that are diagnosed. Scads and scads of them.

Posted by: Carla at August 1, 2008 9:11 AM


It is sad, Carla. I think that a lot of cancers are made more common by "lifestyle" factors like diet, etc. I don't know that we will ever fully understand the intersection of genetics, environmental factors, lifestyle effects, etc, but I don't think this at all unique to breast cancer. It all makes me very sad.

Posted by: Alexandra at August 1, 2008 9:18 AM


MK - I'm so sorry. Thank you for sharing.

You, Haley and her family are in our prayers.

I'm always amazed and deeply moved to hear of the sacrificial faith of women who give their unborn children life, placing them into the hands of God as a gift returned to Him for their upbringing. May God show great love and mercy to them all.

Posted by: Chris Arsenault Author Profile Page at August 1, 2008 9:21 AM


Yeah Carla, I bet. It must be terrible. I still think though of all the women on BC and I can't help but wonder if it is the lack of pregnancies, abortion and BC that is the problem.

Posted by: Patricia at August 1, 2008 9:24 AM


Like, my mom had liver cancer. If you look into it, all the risk factors are things that didn't apply to her -- Hep B, Hep C, cirrhosis or heavy drinking, etc. She has always been a pretty healthy person as far as eating, being active, etc. But she got liver cancer. No one could really throw out a guess as to why. (She's okay now, fortunately.)

Someone once told me that if they had to get cancer, they hope it's not liver or lung cancer because those are the ones people blame you for. I guess they were talking about drinking and smoking. That had never occurred to me before and I thought it was a horrible thing to say. None of us have any idea why individual people's bodies do certain things or react in certain ways. It would be fascinating if it weren't so scary.

Posted by: Alexandra at August 1, 2008 9:26 AM


Alexandra: maybe she had contracted a virus that damaged her liver.
I've read about how some serious illness are now thought to be the result of viral infections.
My dad's side has bladder cancer which runs in the women. To me that's a very bizarre cancer to get. They all survived it.

Posted by: Patricia at August 1, 2008 9:50 AM


I don't know of anyone who attaches a stigma to breast cancer.
Posted by: Alexandra at August 1, 2008 8:52 AM

Don't you remember Jill attacking Linda McCartney for sleeping around with rock stars, "probably" having abortions, and then getting cancer?

Posted by: Hal at August 1, 2008 12:04 PM


The following articles by experts at the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute explain in laymen's terms:

1) The biological reasons why abortion and hormonal drugs containing estrogen and progestin (i.e. hormone replacement therapy and oral contraceptives) are risk factors for breast cancer; and

2) A full term pregnancy is a "natural form of chemotherapy" for cancer patients.

The articles can be found at:

"The breast physiology and the epidemiology of the abortion-breast cancer link"
http://www.abortionbreastcancer.com/Lanfranchi060201.pdf

The cruelist myth of all: When breast cancer strikes during pregnancy
http://www.abortionbreastcancer.com/breastcancer&pregnancy.htm

In 2001, the U.S. National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control completed a report on the status of cancer 1973 through 1998. It shows that breast cancer rates climbed more than 40% between 1987 and 1998. Among three age groups, only the youngest generation, ages 50-64, which had access to legalized abortion (the Roe v. Wade generation), experienced the increase, not the two older groups, ages 65 and older. [Holly Howe et al., Annual report to the nation on the status of cancer 1973 through 1998, featuring cancers with recent increasing trends. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2001;93:824-842, figure 3]

And, yes, the bias against the abortion-breast cancer link among scientists is appalling. One prominent scientist, Dr. Leslie Bernstein, explained her motivation for keeping women in the dark about the risk. She said she was worried that the breast cancer risk will enter the discussion about the legality of abortion. In other words, she's fearful that Roe v. Wade (the court case that made abortion legally accessible) will fall. Scroll down the following page to hear her remarks.

http://www.cancerpage.com/news/article.asp?id=5601

Posted by: Karen Malec at August 1, 2008 12:09 PM


Patricia,

I read about a case study where they compared breast cancer rates to those in developed countries, where pregnancies/periods are under more control and less developed countries where being pregnant a lot is common. In the latter, breast cancer rate was extraordinarily low and the former had an increase over recent years. Nothing proven, just an interesting observation and something to look into.

Posted by: prettyinpink at August 1, 2008 12:23 PM


John Adams' daughter died of Breast Cancer 200 years ago. people seemed familiar with the disease then too, based on what I've read.

Remember, many poeple get cancer after the age of 50, and not nearly as many people ever got to that age in the olden days.

Posted by: Hal at August 1, 2008 12:27 PM


I believe that industrialized countries tend to have higher rates of cancer overall -- it's not just specific to breast cancer. I think it's probably a sum-total sort of effect. There's a lot about our cultural lifestyle that's not healthy.

Posted by: Alexandra at August 1, 2008 12:34 PM


I'd rather get breast cancer than bear a child I didn't want at an age that was too young to try to prevent it.

Posted by: Wichita Linewoman at August 1, 2008 12:54 PM


The other thing to bear in mind is that for years, people just didn't talk about breasts, or uteruses, or testicles...or any other typically clothed body parts. It was shameful and not to be discussed.

Posted by: Wichita Linewoman at August 1, 2008 12:57 PM


I don't know if I like the fact that these women are willing to risk so much just to have a biological child when they could adopt or foster a child and give that child a chance at a good life with a loving family.

I feel that's the same with all the fertility treatments. The length that some people will go to just to pass on their genes, there's more to children though then just there genes. So what if they don't have your eyes? You can give them a part of your life. You can share your hopes and dreams with them, your love.

Posted by: Jess at August 1, 2008 1:08 PM


I don't know if I like the fact that these women are willing to risk so much just to have a biological child when they could adopt or foster a child and give that child a chance at a good life with a loving family.

I feel that's the same with all the fertility treatments. The length that some people will go to just to pass on their genes, there's more to children though then just there genes. So what if they don't have your eyes? You can give them a part of your life. You can share your hopes and dreams with them, your love.

Posted by: Jess at August 1, 2008 1:13 PM


mk,

I'm so sorry for your loss. I will keep your friend and her family in my prayers.

Posted by: Janet at August 1, 2008 1:27 PM


Cancer groups already acknowledge that women who start their periods at a young age before age 12 (called early menarche) and who go into menopause at a late age (after age 55) have a greater breast cancer risk. The more menstrual periods a woman has during her reproductive years (especially before a first full term pregnancy), the greater her breast cancer risk is.

The biological reason is simple. It has to do with an interplay between overexposure to the hormone estrogen (a known cancer-agent) and its effect on immature, cancer-susceptible breast tissue.

Overexposure to estrogen is connected with the development of most breast cancers.

Steroidal estrogens (used in hormone replacement therapy and hormonal contraceptives) are on the nation's list of "known carcinogens." Women's bodies naturally produce estrogen during every monthly menstrual cycle. Estrogen peaks just before ovulation every month.

When women develop breast cancer, doctors often suppress the effect of estrogen by using a class of chemotherapy drugs called SERMs. (Strange how they prescribe cancer-causing steroidal estrogen and progestin used in most hormonal contraceptives for healthy women, but use SERMs to block estrogen when women develop breast cancer. That's what some would call a "racket.") Before chemotherapy was available, doctors treated breast cancer patients by removing their ovaries.

The breasts are the only female organs that are not fully developed at birth.

At puberty, estrogen stimulates breast growth. Childless teenagers and childless women have highly immature, cancer-susceptible breast lobules called Type 1 and 2 lobules. Nearly all of their breast lobules include Type 1 and 2 lobules. A lobule is tissue that contains a milk duct and milk-producing glands. Most breast cancers - 95% - form in Type 1 and 2 lobules.

On the other hand, by the end of a full term pregnancy, 85% of the mother's lobules are fully mature, cancer-resistant Type 4 lobules that contain colostrum (the milk women have as they're about to begin lactation). Women do not acquire a sufficient number of Type 4 lobules to reduce their breast cancer risk until 32 weeks of pregnancy. A full term pregnancy (40 weeks gestation), however, offers the greatest protection against breast cancer and the greatest number of cancer-resistant lobules.

During every monthly menstrual cycle, estrogen (which peaks before ovulation) stimulates the childless woman's Type 1 and 2 lobules. Estrogen causes breast cancer in two ways - either by causing the breast tissue to grow, thereby resulting in mutations during the cell multiplication process or by acting as a direct carcinogen that causes cancer cells to form.

Women who start their periods at a younger age or who go into menopause at a late age are exposed to more estrogen during their lives because they have more menstrual periods.

Standard medical texts state that the younger a woman is when she has her first full term pregnancy, the lower her risk is. {It makes good biological sense because women who remain childless longer during their reproductive lives also extend the "susceptibility window" - the period in their lives when they are the most cancer-susceptible.)

Additionally, standard medical texts state that the more children a woman has and the longer she breastfeeds throughout her life, the lower her risk is.

Menstruation is suspended when women have babies and breastfeed. Fewer periods mean less estrogen exposure.

Abortion raises breast cancer risk in 3 ways. First, it deprives the woman of the protective effect of childbearing.

Second, it leaves her with more places in her breasts for cancers to start. [For a discussion of this, see http://www.abortionbreastcancer.com/Lanfranchi060201.pdf]

Third, abortion puts her at risk for a subsequent premature birth (See the appendix in the Institute of Medicine's book, Preterm Birth.) Research shows that a premature birth before 32 weeks of pregnancy more than doubles her breast cancer risk. The biological reasons are the same as for abortion. Similar biological events have similar physiological effects. The hormonal changes to her breasts are identical in both cases.

If a premature birth before 32 weeks gestation increases breast cancer risk, then surely an abortion does as well. This evidence provides strong biological support for the second way (stated above) that abortion increases breast cancer risk.

Posted by: Karen Malec at August 1, 2008 1:47 PM


My childhood friend Suzie died in my arms a few years ago from Breast Cancer. She had aborted her only child when she was 16. She never wanted to go through that ever again so the pill became her BC. She was on it for 20 years. She found out she had cancer when she was 36.

The night before her funeral I was reading her journal and one of the entries read, "All I ever wanted was to get married, have 8 kids and a house with a white picket fence and a two car gargage.

She never married, never had children. I miss her so much. I kept a recording of her answering machine. Her sister lives in her house and I can't go there...to painful.

Abortion and all its aftermath suck. Some will argue abortion and breast cancer have no link...well in Suzie case it did...

Posted by: Ann Marie at August 1, 2008 2:03 PM


I don't know of anyone who attaches a stigma to breast cancer.
Posted by: Alexandra at August 1, 2008 8:52 AM

Don't you remember Jill attacking Linda McCartney for sleeping around with rock stars, "probably" having abortions, and then getting cancer?

Posted by: Hal at August 1, 2008 12:04 PM
.................................

You just don't get it Hal. If you worship the correct god in the correct manner, you will never get a disease. Not physical, mental or emotional. These are punishments for the disobedient.
Unless of course, you or someone around you needs to be taught a lesson. Then god will smite you with disease to teach you or someone else a lesson.
Only a correct worshiper can tell you which category you fall under.

Posted by: Sally at August 1, 2008 2:11 PM


Yeah, age is most definitely a factor too.

Posted by: prettyinpink at August 1, 2008 2:37 PM


Ann Marie:2:03: Thank you for sharing your friend's story. I'm so sorry for your loss. God bless you.

Posted by: Janet at August 1, 2008 3:02 PM


I am so sorry as well Anne Marie. I am glad Suzie has made such an incredible impact on your life, but it breaks my heart at the same time.

Posted by: Carla at August 1, 2008 3:17 PM


"You just don't get it Hal. If you worship the correct god in the correct manner, you will never get a disease. Not physical, mental or emotional. These are punishments for the disobedient.
Unless of course, you or someone around you needs to be taught a lesson. Then god will smite you with disease to teach you or someone else a lesson.
Only a correct worshiper can tell you which category you fall under.
Posted by: Sally at August 1, 2008 2:11 PM

I don't think that anyone is saying that Sally. It's just that when you mess with nature too much there can be repercussions. In this case,it's messing with a woman's hormonal balance. God doesn't have to punish us -- we do a pretty good job ourselves!

Posted by: Eileen at August 1, 2008 3:18 PM


Thank you Karen!!

Posted by: Carla at August 1, 2008 3:19 PM


Haley's Mom -- what a heroic lady. God bless her and her family.

Posted by: Eileen at August 1, 2008 3:21 PM


Eternal rest grant unto Susie...

It was a blessing that you could be with her when she passed away, Ann Marie.

Posted by: Eileen at August 1, 2008 3:27 PM


Sally, Sally, Sally.
She makes me smile....still. :)

Posted by: Carla at August 1, 2008 3:37 PM


Karen Malec! Great to see you have posted some super info. Got your website already bookmarked! Thanks for the wonderful work you do on behalf of women!

Posted by: Patricia at August 1, 2008 3:55 PM


Sally we are all governed by the laws of nature. Our bodies are governed by the laws of nature. Our bodies are designed to work a certain way - for example when a woman gets pregnant if she can't sustain the pregnancy her body will work a certain way. If she can sustain a pregnancy it will work another way. Abortion interrupts a very complicated hormonal process which we know very little about. For example we are only just discovering about the biochemical and hormonal interplay between the woman and her tiny developing baby.
Therefore, induced abortion is an unnatural disruption of a normal biological event in a woman's body (one she was designed for) and there will be biological consequences - one of which appears to be the increased risk of breast cancer. There are other risks - damage to a cervix designed to closed and firm but which is forced open for example, weakens this muscle and can make it incompetent.
I don't see what the problem is in understanding this unless of course you wish to live in a fantasy world and deny the consequences of what are definitely unnatural acts.

Posted by: Patricia at August 1, 2008 4:10 PM


Well I guess I'm lucky then...I have had very few periods in the 8 years I've been having them due to hideous irregularity. Guess I'm "safe".

Posted by: Rae at August 1, 2008 5:36 PM


I'm REALLY screwed. Since I got my evil monthly curse from the age of 13, I went through a phase where I got it every other week (two periods a month). So I have some of that fun exposure. Not too worried though...no one in my family has ever had breast cancer, so I don't have any family link. That's not to say it's not possible, but...meh.

Posted by: Lyssie at August 1, 2008 9:15 PM


I don't think that anyone is saying that Sally. It's just that when you mess with nature too much there can be repercussions. In this case,it's messing with a woman's hormonal balance. God doesn't have to punish us -- we do a pretty good job ourselves!


Posted by: Eileen at August 1, 2008 3:18 PM
..................................

The cause of breast cancer appears to be estrogen and the genetic proclivity for the disease. Estrogen is 'natural'. Men get breast cancer. What 'sin'/messing with nature are they being punished for Eileen?

Posted by: Sally at August 1, 2008 9:33 PM


Ah, don't worry too much about it, Lyssie. I didn't start until I was almost 18, missed whole portions of years at a time for most of the four years following that, and have a moderate-to-strong history of breast cancer among my female relatives. It's all a crapshoot; I don't think anyone can really look at a lineup of women and say who will get cancer or why.

Posted by: Alexandra at August 1, 2008 9:34 PM


Estrogen is 'natural'. Men get breast cancer. What 'sin'/messing with nature are they being punished for Eileen?

Posted by: Sally at August 1, 2008 9:33 PM

I certainly don't consider estrogen from BC as natural -especially since the pill tricks the woman's body into thinking it is pregnant all the time.
Yes men do get breast cancer but there are different factors involved in their cancers.
Nature is very unforgiving. We were designed a certain way and to function a certain way. The BC pill, abortion and delayed or no pregnancies are not "normal" for women. What part of this don't you understand Sally?

Posted by: Patricia at August 1, 2008 10:10 PM


Estrogen is 'natural'. Men get breast cancer. What 'sin'/messing with nature are they being punished for Eileen?

Posted by: Sally at August 1, 2008 9:33 PM

I certainly don't consider estrogen from BC as natural -especially since the pill tricks the woman's body into thinking it is pregnant all the time.
.....................

Of You actually read any of the studies linked by PL here, you would find that the body producing estrogen is the problem. When pregnant, the body doesn't produce estrogen in 'normal' quantities and therefore the perceived protection.
.........................
Yes men do get breast cancer but there are different factors involved in their cancers.
..................................
Like what? You spend all day around books. Try reading a few. Back up your opinions with facts.
.................................
Nature is very unforgiving. We were designed a certain way and to function a certain way. The BC pill, abortion and delayed or no pregnancies are not "normal" for women. What part of this don't you understand Sally?
.............................
I'm still trying to figure out why a librarian would categorize Victorian romance novels as historical reference.

Posted by: Patricia at August 1, 2008 10:10 PM
.......................................

Posted by: Sally at August 1, 2008 11:17 PM


Sally

"If you worship the correct god in the correct manner, you will never get a disease. Not physical, mental or emotional. These are punishments for the disobedient. Unless of course, you or someone around you needs to be taught a lesson. Then god will smite you with disease to teach you or someone else a lesson.Only a correct worshiper can tell you which category you fall under."

What the heck kind of god are you worshiping?

Let's makes this a little personal. You know that post recently on little Tuesday? So, according to you, god smote her with cancer in order to teach her or someone around her a lesson???? Am I missing something here? This is the same god who's supposed to be omnibenevelont and compassionate, right?

So, since I assume you include yourself in that category of "correct worshipers" to so arrogantly and blatantly deny the causes of human suffering, what was His motive there?

Posted by: A. at August 2, 2008 8:47 AM


A,

Sally was being sarcastic and mocking those who hold a similar religious belief.

Posted by: Bobby Bambino at August 2, 2008 8:51 AM



Remember, many poeple get cancer after the age of 50, and not nearly as many people ever got to that age in the olden days.

Posted by: Hal at August 1, 2008 12:27 PM


Average life expectancy at birth has increased because fewer children die young. Average life expectancy for healthy adults however has changed very little throughout history.

People did not just die in middle age. The average is just that an average. If you have one person die when he is 1 and another at 100, the average is 50. Our average life expectancy at birth is higher because so few children are dying at age 5 or below.

If you are a healthy adult, your chance of making it to 100 is about the same as it ever has been.


Posted by: hippie at August 2, 2008 6:41 PM


hippie:6:41: Really? It makes sense...I never thought much about that before.

Posted by: Janet at August 2, 2008 11:13 PM