Yesterday Emma I went to our local spot and bumped into some friends. With one been journalist and the other a psychologist, we covered a whole lot of topics. From mental health care to whiskeys, from theatre shows to politics.
I don't remember how we got onto the subject but I mentioned a possible link between IVF and breast cancer. Of the three of us sitting there, two of us had been to fertility clinics for assistance with completing our families. Neither of us went the IVF route though but we all know of people who have. In fact one is a close friend whom I worked with years ago.
When Mark and I were trying to fall pregnant a few years back I bumped into this particular friend at the fertility clinic. She was pregnant and looked absolutely beautiful. I was going for various injections and so we got to see each fairly often.
One day she excitedly she told me she was pregnant. After four failed IVF attempts they were going to be parents. Five or so months after their bundle of joy was born she was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the age of 36 she was finally a mother...and a survivor of a double masectomy.
Mark and I opted not to go this route for our own personal reasons. Age was not on my side. Health and weight neither. And of course at R40 000 a pop we really had to weigh up all the pros and cons. With a 22% chance of the treatment been successful we decided to look into adoption. Chatting to my friend after her operation she said that the oncologists mentioned that the IVF might have triggered the cancer. Of course this was something the fertility specialists never mentioned. They were more than happy to take their money, never once explaining the actual cost involved.
In order to write a responsible story I googled "link between breast cancer and IVF" and up popped an article on dailymail.co.uk, written a day or two ago about the death of Sarah Parkinson. Sarah had had IVF and a few months later was diagnosed with breast cancer. Ruth, in the same article, was diagnosed with breast cancer after having undergone IVF. When she asked her doctors whether the IVF could have triggered the cancer the answers varied from no to maybe. But the maybe was always strictly off-the-record.
Even more alarming is an article on time.com. According to the article 3.5 million children worldwide have been conceived by IVF over the past three decades and many of them are now reaching into adulthood. Researchers have begun larger studies on various aspects of the development of IVF children, including the risks of autism, diabetes and cancer, and the results have hinted at some possible long-term health problems. In a current study, the largest of its kind, it found a statistically significant increase in cancer risk in children conceived via IVF compared with those conceived the good old fashioned way. Having said this the authors think it may be due to other factors related to the parents infertility rather than than the process of IVF itself. Nevertheless the results are alarming and it is probably a good idea to investigate the matter a little further. Ask questions of your doctor, speak to friends and family, chat to people who have undergone the treatment and read as much as you can. More research needs to be done and answers need to be found. Because until we know more, according to the Daily Mail article, this could be, quite literally, the most impossible life-and-death decision that any woman may have to face.
Perhaps it's no small coincidence that the fertility clinic in Sandton shares office space with none other than a group of oncologists.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-197969/Can-IVF-cause-breast-cancer.html#ixzz1Vg5YBbSb