Promising News about Fertility in Female Survivors of Childhood Cancer

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 7, 2013

A recent study shows that many women who had a cancer as a child can become pregnant.

Many women think that if they had cancer as a child, they might never have children. A recent study shows that though it may be little harder, many of these women are able to get pregnant.

Although women who survived childhood cancer face an increased risk of infertility, nearly two-thirds of those who tried unsuccessfully to become pregnant for at least a year eventually conceived, according to researchers at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. This is similar to the rate of eventual pregnancy among all clinically infertile women.

The new study is based on data from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study.  The study followed five-year survivors from 26 institutions who were under 21 when diagnosed with cancer. Researchers studied 3,531 sexually active women, age 18-39, who survived cancer and compared them to a group of 1,366 female siblings who did not have cancer.

Overall, 15.9 percent of women who survived childhood cancer were affected by infertility, with 12.9 percent trying to conceive for at least one year without success. (The remaining cancer survivors included in the infertile group had experienced ovarian failure and may not have even attempted pregnancy.)  Compared to their siblings, the cancer survivors had a 50 percent higher risk of infertility.  Despite higher rates of infertility, nearly two-thirds of cancer survivors conceived, on average, after another six months.  Among the comparison group of clinically infertile siblings, it took another five months to conceive, on average.

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Help for Couples Facing Infertility

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 25, 2013

National Infertility Awareness Week (April 21-27) aims to educate the public about a condition that affects over seven million Americans of all ages, races, and incomes. Today’s post features a summary of HealthHub posts addressing infertility, with insights from physicians at Brigham and Women’s Center for Infertility and Reproductive Surgery.

When to See a Fertility Specialist

As a couple, you’ve been trying to conceive for several months without success. Should you keep trying or should you see a fertility specialist? The correct answer is that it depends. Dr. Elena Yanushpolsky, an infertility specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), discusses when it’s time to see a specialist.

 

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When to See a Fertility Specialist

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 23, 2013

Dr. Elena Yanushpolsky

Today’s post was written by Dr. Elena Yanushpolsky. Dr. Yanushpolsky is an infertility specialist with the Center for Infertility and Reproductive Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and the Director of the BWH Center for Infertility and Reproductive Surgery at South Shore Hospital in South Weymouth. She discusses when its time to see a fertility specialist.

As a couple, you’ve been trying to conceive for several months without success. Should you keep trying or should you consult a fertility specialist? The correct answer is that it depends. Here are some things that can help you determine how soon to see a specialist:

  • Getting Ready:  It’s important for both partners to have a general health evaluation with a primary care doctor before seeking fertility evaluation and treatments. Many illnesses can have an impact on a couple’s fertility.

I also recommend that my patients maximize their chances for conception by using urine ovulation predictor kits which can be purchased over the counter. Other ovulation detection methods, such as basal body temperature measurements and cervical mucous evaluations can be used, though they are less precise than urine ovulation predictor kits.

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Bariatric Surgery: A Way to Beat Your Genes

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 22, 2013

Theresa poses with her support staff, Shaun and Shaun, Jr., at a family wedding after her surgery.

Overeating, poor nutrition, and a sedentary lifestyle are three of the biggest culprits for our nation’s obesity crisis. All these factors are largely controllable, but, left unchecked, they become more and more difficult to overcome over time. Sometimes, however, life presents individuals with circumstances that promote obesity and are simply beyond their control. That was the case with Theresa Carr, 32, of Tewksbury, MA.

Theresa admits that her own actions contributed to her being overweight, but her situation became worse after she developed polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition that causes an imbalance in a woman’s hormones. This imbalance, in turn, can cause irregular periods, infertility, depression, weight gain, and difficulty in losing weight.

Dr. Scott Shikora, Director, Center for Metabolic Health and Bariatric Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, suggests that Theresa’s experience is a good example for those who believe that bariatric surgery is a shortcut for patients who should simply exercise more or work harder to eat less. “What they’re failing to realize is that while bad eating habits certainly do play into this, it’s often genetics,” explains Shikora. “And people can’t beat their genes.”

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New Research Sheds Light on Link Between Obesity and Fertility in Women

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 1, 2012

Obese women are more likely to have egg abnormalities associated with infertility.

Modern reproductive science has unlocked the key to a vast array of fertility problems, and researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital have now discovered a possible link between obesity and egg quality.

Obesity has long been associated with poor reproductive outcomes, but the reason has largely been unknown. With one-third of all American women of childbearing age battling obesity, it is a major barrier for many wishing to grow their family.

A new study released earlier this month shows that severely obese women are more likely to have abnormalities in their eggs that can make it impossible for them to be fertilized normally. The abnormalities involve the spindle, a critical egg structure responsible for normal arrangement of the chromosomes. A normal egg must have one spindle organized in a very specific way, with the chromosomes lined up correctly. The study showed that severely obese women have a much greater chance of having eggs with multiple spindles and disorganized chromosomes.

“This study is the first to shed light on how BMI (body mass index) might adversely affect egg quality in women,” said study lead, Catherine Racowsky, PhD, Director of the Assisted Reproductive Technologies Laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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