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Young women with breast cancer may preserve fertility by avoiding certain chemotherapy

Young women with HER 2-positive breast cancer may help preserve their fertility by choosing one type of chemotherapy over another, according to the findings of a study led by Dr. Kathryn Ruddy, M.D., an oncologist at Mayo Clinic.

“Ovarian dysfunction is an important issue after cancer treatment because it can be associated with infertility and menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and impaired sexual function,” Ruddy said.

Ruddy and her team surveyed study participants taking part in a randomized clinical trial testing the efficacy of T-DM1 versus a combination of paclitaxel and trastuzumab. Participants were asked questions about menstrual periods.

“We found that young women with HER 2-positive breast cancer may be more likely to resume menstruation after receipt of two relatively new treatments, T-DM1 or a combination of paclitaxel and trastuzumab, than we have seen previously in young women who received older, more intensive chemotherapy regimens.” Ruddy said.

Ruddy said the findings should be good news for women who want to maintain fertility after treatment for breast cancer and that menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes may be less burdensome for patients treated with the newer regimens. Ruddy and her colleagues will perform additional analyses on the effect of tamoxifen on these results before publishing a paper on this study.