The world was left shocked Monday when news broke that Fashion Police co-host Giuliana Rancic has breast cancer at the young age of 37. The most surprising news was that she has no family history of breast cancer, meaning something external could have caused it. Although there have been some studies debunking the theory, many medical professionals still suspect that Rancic’s efforts of getting pregnant via IVF, in vetro fertilization, could have caused her cancer.
Doctors recommend women start getting mammograms at age 40. Although 36 is considered young to have breast cancer, it is not uncommon. Women undergoing IVF are typically in their mid to high 30’s, so they are screened for cancers and other medical abnormalities for every course of IVF given.
In vetro fertilization is a last-chance effort women make when they want to get pregnant but are suffering from infertility. Eggs are harvested from the woman’s ovaries and fertilized by sperm, taken from her partner or a sperm donor, in a fluid medium. The fertilized eggs, now a zygote, are transferred into the woman’s uterus at the peak point of her hormonal fertility in hopes that it will attach to the uterine wall and begin to develop. Sometimes it never works, sometimes it works too much (ex: Octomom).
The thinking is that the hormonal treatments used with IVF can cause cancer. Elizabeth Edwards, who succumbed to her battle with breast cancer last December, had her two children via IVF. Edwards, however, was 61. Rancic had never even had a mammogram until her doctor suspected she might have cancer.
Breast cancer, in particular, is common among IVF patients. In general, breast cancer makes up almost a quarter of all the world’s cancers. It is the most common cancer found among women and causes almost 15% of all female cancer patient deaths. Starting at age 16, women are recommended to check themselves for breast cancer by performing a monthly physical examination for lumps around the breast tissue and armpits. 80% of breast cancer is found by women finding lumps during self-performed exams.
Whether or not IVF can increase the risk of breast cancer has yet to be seen. Regardless, it is important for all women to regularly check themselves and for women over 40 to receive a mammogram every 6-12 months.
If you’re considering IVF, make sure you have a doctor who is well acquainted with the process and risks of the procedure. The only reason Octomom ended up having 8 babies at once is because her doctor was irresponsible. And if one treatment of IVF can cause hormonal problems, imagine what being pregnant with 8 kids is like.