Cancer: Greek expert explains how safe IVF drugs are

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Can IVF drugs increase the chances of cancer? Dr. Haris Chiniadis, an obstetrician-gynecologist and specialist in Assisted Reproduction at the HYGEIA IVF EMBRYOGENESIS Unit, answers the question.

Many women believe that IVF drugs cause cancer, especially of the breast, and are hesitant to take them or even proceed with IVF treatment.

The truth is that for many years, there was a myth surrounding the drugs used for ovarian stimulation in IVF. We have even met doctors who advised women not to use them.

In vitro fertilisation is a safe procedure that aims to stimulate the ovaries to collect as many eggs as possible, fertilise them with sperm, and create embryos. After a few days of incubation, embryos are transferred back to the mother's uterus.

In practice, the drugs used are the same as the hormones secreted by the brain every month to make the egg mature and ovulate, except it is administered in a larger amount to mature more eggs.

In the last 30 years, dozens of studies have been carried out on the safety of these drugs and especially on the possibility that a woman has developed cancer after taking them.

We have now safely concluded that there is no increased risk of cancer for women who undergo IVF with or without taking these drugs. These results, which have been known for several years, have begun to be embraced by doctors of other specialties, such as oncologists, who now lead women to IVF treatment to freeze eggs or embryos before chemotherapy.

In a few words, even in women who suffer from hormone-dependent breast cancer, we can, with protocols that have little difference from those we use in the daily practice of IVF, stimulate their ovaries, take eggs and freeze them in order to save their fertility before the required chemotherapy.

In addition, even women who have suffered from hormone-dependent breast cancer in the past can proceed with similar protocols in IVF treatment after about two years, of course, always with the consent of their oncologist.

So it becomes obvious that women should not hesitate to use the drugs, nor, of course, to ask to be treated with a natural cycle, i.e. without stimulation of the ovaries. If a woman has normal ovaries, which produce enough eggs, it is wrong to proceed with repeated treatments with a natural cycle, which are expensive and less effective and, of course, much more burdensome psychologically.

Natural cycle or modified natural cycle therapy should be recommended for women who have reduced ovarian function and cannot produce more eggs even when their ovaries are stimulated with IVF drugs.

Another question we often hear at the first IVF appointment is when women can repeat their treatment to cleanse their bodies of hormones. That's not the case either.

IVF drugs have a limited half-life, which means they must be taken at very specific times each day. Otherwise, their blood levels, and thus their effectiveness, drop significantly.

Therefore, there is no minimum period that must pass to eliminate these drugs. We often recommend that patients wait between IVF treatments for the best ovarian performance and not because of high blood levels of drugs or hormones. After all, we often use drugs again immediately after ovulation to collect eggs a second time within a month, especially in women who are soon to be operated on for malignancy.

With all the above, it becomes clear that women should not worry about using medicines. On the contrary, IVF is a safe procedure, which, when performed by experienced and trained Reproductive Gynecologists in specialised Assisted Reproductive Units, has excellent results and offers solutions and joy to the world of infertile couples.

Dr. Haris Chiniadis is an Obstetrician-Surgeon Gynecologist, Specialist in Assisted Reproduction at the HYGEIA IVF EMBRYOGENESIS Unit. Translated by Paul Antonopoulos.



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