Do Fertility Drugs Cause Cancer?

This question has been running through my mind all day today. I was eating breakfast with my son Mason when E! News host Giuliana Rancic, 37, announced on the Today Show that she had been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. The shocking diagnosis was made while she was undergoing health screenings before her third round of  in-vitro fertilization (IVF). I’ve watched her struggle with infertility, two rounds of IVF, and a miscarriage on her Style Network reality show Giuliana & Bill, and I had been hoping that she was about to announce that she was finally pregnant. And now this?

At work, several people asked me if I thought that the fertility drugs Giuliana had taken had caused her cancer. (I edit the Pregnancy Channel on Parents.com.) I’ve been researching the topic tonight and the articles that I’ve read have all said that there is no proven link between fertility drugs and cancer. On its website the American Cancer Society addresses breast cancer specifically and says, “IVF does not appear to cause breast cancer.” I’m certain more studies will be done on this topic, and I hope that there’s never evidence to the contrary.

The hero in this story is Giuliana’s doctor, in my opinion. He probably saved her life when he insisted that she get a mammogram. Most likely, a pregnancy would have accelerated her cancer and her prognosis could have been very bleak. As a precaution, I had a mammogram before my husband and I started trying for Mason; my own mother battled and beat breast cancer at the age of 34. Giuliana, however, said during her Today Show interview that she hadn’t planned on getting a mammogram until she turned 40, even though her aunt had been diagnosed with breast cancer previously.

Did your doctor suggest that you get a mammogram before you got pregnant? Do you think mammograms should be recommended for all women who are trying to get pregnant?

(photo: eonline.com)

 

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  1. by cat

    On October 19, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    What makes you say that a pregnancy would have accelerated her cancer? Is there scientific evidence that this is true?

  2. by kate

    On October 19, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Cat,

    There is scientific evidence that supports this. Many breast cancers have estrogen receptors, so the cancer in essence feeds off estrogen. If this is the type of cancer, the hormone surge during preg (and the higher estrogen levels during a woman’s fertile years) can accelerate cancer growth. Seach for estrogen receptor breast cancer and you’ll find more…

  3. by kate

    On October 19, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    I wrote that wrong… It’s the increased estrogen during our fertile years that can accelerate br cancer… but estrogen is suppressed during pg, so I think it’s the overall increased blood supply during preg that causes certain forms to accelerate.

  4. by Chrissy

    On October 19, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Pregnancy and fertility drugs don’t cause cancer but estrogen feeds cancer especially breast and ovarian cancer. And during fertility treatments and pregnancy you are exposed to very high estrogen levels so in theory yes it could feed a cancer that has already started growing.

  5. by Amanda

    On October 19, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    I’m really glad to hear it was caught early. Sadly, this means waiting even longer to have a baby, or not having one at all. I wonder, have they considered adoption? I hate to think of that as a “last resort” because it’s a very good option, not the consolation-prize option. However they eventually become parents, I wish her well with her cancer treatments as well as motherhood.

  6. by Mandy

    On October 19, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Before undergoing IVF I had extensive blood screening but did not have a mammogram. Curious why her doctor felt she needed one – he must of seen something suspicious in her workups. Infertility is very hard and fertility treatments are as well. Prayers for her and her family.

  7. by Nichole

    On November 5, 2011 at 8:21 am

    Recommending mammograms for all women who are trying to get pregnant? Really? I completely understand it if you have a history of early breast cancer in your family (as is the case here), or if you are nearing 40 when you should start having mammograms anyway, but I really think it’s overkill for most healthy women in their 20s and 30s who are having babies. Testing is good….testing unnecessarily wastes time, money and resources.

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  9. by debby

    On November 13, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Hi, I’m shocked to read this, I can only imagine what she’s going through after seeying part of her series while I was struggling with IF myself.

    I had 2 inseminations and 1 IVF last year. After not being succesful(and suffer all the effects of the treatments), I discovered a bump one morning. It was one of the hardest and scariest things I’ve ever gone through. Fortunately it wasn’t cancer, but it made me think about having future treatments as the specialist said that although theres no direct proven link it’s true what somebody said here and the levels of estrogen and different hormones you are given could affect indirectly.
    Thankfully I decided to do it again after much consideration and I’m now expecting, but will think a lot in the future before going thtough another treatment. These treatments are still quite new and the fact that right now ‘there’s no proven link’ doesn’t mean that there won’t be in ther future!

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