Clare Breen

‘I know how important fertility services are for cancer patients’

Clare Breen shares her story of how cancer treatment caused her to think ahead about future family options

Clare Breen had never given much consideration to starting a family of her own before her diagnosis of bowel cancer at the age of 30 caused her to think ahead.

The news was a shock in itself, and for Clare it also brought the unexpected consequence of having to plan for her future fertility options after the necessary treatment.

“It was something myself and my partner Colm hadn't ever discussed before being told I had cancer. I had to have 12 rounds of chemotherapy as part of my treatment, and it was mentioned to me before I started that this might impact on my ability to have children in future,” Clare said.

“I was eventually referred to the Rotunda for IVF in case I ever needed such a procedure after my treatment. This required a lot of time; for part of the treatment you must attend the hospital every day. I’m now thankful that this was possible for me and it has given me huge peace of mind.

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Having come from a position where I hadn’t even considered the need for fertility preservation I know now how important it is that people in my position are given timely access to this service.

A self-employed artist based in Carlow, Clare feels strongly that cancer symptoms need to be taken seriously no matter what age a person is.

I feel that as a young woman, complaints I had about my bowel were never taken seriously until I turned 30. I asked at many times throughout my 20s for a colonoscopy and I was always told ‘we don't really do that for people your age’, or ‘your symptoms are really not too bad’,” Clare recalled.

“I think young people in particular can be embarrassed about even going to the doctor about bowel complaints. So often people think bowel cancer only affects older people whereas in reality anyone can develop it, which is why it’s so important that people report their symptoms and that they’re listened to and supported.”

Irish Cancer Society Support Line

If you or someone in your life is undergoing cancer treatment and are concerned about the coronavirus, you can speak confidentially to an Irish Cancer Society Cancer Nurse through the Freephone Support Line on 1800 200 700.