Cancer Treatments & Fertility Medication

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1935

When I was going through my egg donation procedure, the first injectables I was placed on was Buserelin acetate The nurse put me through the process of self-injecting the subcutaneous injections and I went home fearful to have to inject myself. Before I used the medication, I decided to read the pamphlet which is something I do all the time before taking drugs, just to be sure of the precautions, side effect and dosage. Now, imagine my surprise when I am reading through this pamphlet and realize that it is an injectable used for treating prostrate cancer! I was convinced that the nurse must have made a mistake, so I called the agency back and said “€œThis injectable is for treating men who have prostate cancer oh. It says so explicitly on the pamphlet”€. My kind nurse first laughed, then commended me for bothering to read the pamphlet, because according to her, most people do not even open the pamphlet at all.

She then proceeded to tell me that the Buserelin was first developed as a cancer medication, given to treat prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (metastatic prostate cancer). She said Buserelin acetate is a synthetic version of a hormone called gonadotrophin releasing hormone; GNRH which occurs naturally in the body (this part was also in my pamphlet). Now, most prostate cancers need the hormone testosterone to grow, and all testosterone in men are made by the testicles (hence the name I guess), so Buserelin acetate works by turning off the production of sex hormones, thus inhibiting the growth of the cancer and shrinking it all together.

Because, it is an injectable used in turning off production of sex hormones, Buserelin acetate is used to treat infertility by also stopping the production of the female sex hormones, so synthetic hormones can be given to stimulate ovulation in a controlled manner. That was exactly what it did in my case, my hormones stopped being produced, and at the scheduled time, I was placed on Follicular Stimulating Hormones (FSH) which prompted the follicles that house the eggs inside the ovary to develop and mature for collection.

Another cancer medication is one that we are all familiar with; Femara (genetic name is Letrozole). It is an oral drug which is effective in fertility treatment for women with unexplained infertility or those having ovulation issues. However, just before it was used in treating infertility, Femara was also, and is still used, for treatment of breast cancer. Postmenopausal women diagnosed with hormone-receptor-positive, early-stage cancer are placed on Femara after surgery (either chemotherapy or radiation) to reduce the chances of the cancer coming back. Note that Femara won’t work on hormone-receptor-negative breast cancer, because it is also basically a hormonal drug. In other words, the breast cancer has to be responsive to hormone changes before Femara can be used on the patient.

Femara which is in a class of drugs called aromatase inhibitors is used to help women who have PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). The increase in FSH helps the follicles in the ovary to develop and mature enough for eggs to be extracted. For women have have ovulation problems, Femara helps to control and stimulate the ovulation; whilst also helping women who already ovulate to develop multiple follicles, thus increasing eggs released and tripling the chances of pregnancy. Many of us probably hear about Femara after having a hard time with popular medication; Clomid. Some women who do not respond well to Clomid are able to get induced ovulation with Femara and then, conceive. I like to think that whilst on medications like Femara, we are not only inducing ovulation, but also reducing to a large extent the chances of having breast cancer, because of its dual function and usage.

Thus, cancer medications that are hormonal and used in turning off or on sex hormones  in other to inhinbit cancer growth can also be used to turn off or on hormones in a case of infertility. It is all about the hormones!

Just an education for you 😉

 

 

In loving memory of Chioma Ifeoma Nnoli (1974 – 2015) & Tony Nwadike-Raymond (1957 – 2015)

 

With references from

  1. www.breastcancer.org
  2. www.webmd.com
  3. macmillan.org.uk

 

Photo Credit

  1. http://www.thedoctorstv.com

 

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