In 2014, six years after five IVF sessions, the woman was diagnosed with an orange-sized brain tumor. The tumor, called meningioma, already existed before treatment.
Before giving birth to James, now eight, Serena underwent five rounds of IVF over four years. During this period, she had to face three miscarriages. In 2012, about 18 months after having her child, she was diagnosed with a non-cancerous brain tumor.
Serena realized that something was wrong when she noticed minor memory losses, headaches and mood swings. Her husband, Scott Jardine, took her to the hospital in 2014, when his wife had symptoms similar to a stroke. The tumor was detected on an MRI scan, but it was already the size of an orange.
The woman underwent surgery three weeks after diagnosis. According to the medical team, the British woman had had the tumor since 2006, two years before starting the artificial fertilization treatment, so the procedure had not been the cause of the problem. However, the potent hormonal treatment may have worsened the situation, according to them, facilitating the growth of the tumor.
The operation to remove the cell mass was delicate, but doctors were able to remove 95% of the tumor. Unfortunately, Serena lost part of her vision and developed thyroid problems after the surgery.
“Nobody told me anything about the potential disadvantages [da fertilização in vitro]. They just said ‘this is what we have to do for you to have a baby’, ”said Serena, in an interview with the Daily Mail. “Obviously, I am very happy to have my son, but it was not an easy journey”
In 2006, two years before starting IVF treatment, Serena Jardine began to experience the first symptoms of the brain tumor without knowing it. After having a severe earache, she went through a battery of tests, but the doctors did not detect anything abnormal.
Since the meningioma was not cancerous, the doctors who attended her believe that it could have existed for a long time as a small lump, but not large enough to put pressure on the patient’s brain or cause any obvious symptoms.
Serena Jardine and her son James
Serena underwent five IVF sessions and three miscarriages before giving birth to James, 8 years old
Serena’s brain tumor grew to the size of an orange after IVF treatmentPersonal archive
James was born after Serena Jardine went through four years of IVF treatmentPersonal archive
Soon after giving birth, Serena began to show more recurrent symptoms, such as forgetting the keys at the door. “I forgot to take my purse with me to places and I started to have an occasional very strong headache months after James was born,” he reported.
The episodes of forgetfulness became more and more frequent, at the same time that she noticed sudden changes in mood. “I was instantly irritated if something disturbed me. It was very emotional. I am a very kind person, but I lost control with the smallest things ”, he recalls.
Scott, Selena’s husband, decided to take her to the hospital after asking his wife a question and realizing that she was unable to answer because her face was paralyzed. After diagnosis and surgery, doctors said the reproductive hormones received during treatment may have contributed to the growth of the tumor.
Meningiomas are tumors that grow on membranes between the skull and the brain or spinal cord. Nine out of 10 are non-cancerous and grow slowly, which means they may not cause any symptoms.
In vitro fertilization and cancer
According to Marina Barbosa, gynecologist, obstetrician and specialist in human reproduction by the Brazilian Society for Assisted Reproduction (SBRA), cases like Serena Jardine’s are extremely rare. “I had never heard of the relationship between IVF and meningioma. This is a rare tumor and has a multifactorial origin. She probably already had this genetic probability ”, he details.
The specialist also explains that the type of tumor of the British patient responds to various stimuli, so it is not possible to say with certainty that the hormonal treatment was responsible for making it grow. “There is no study that says that the use of hormones causes the growth of this type of tumor. In her case, it was an unfortunate coincidence ”.
“There is recent research, carried out with more than 200 thousand women, which demonstrate that there is no increased risk of any type of gynecological cancer (breast, endometrium or ovary) because of IVF treatment”, reinforces Marina Barbosa.
The gynecologist explains that the treatment of in vitro fertilization takes around 10 to 12 days. After this period, the patient’s hormone levels return to normal rates, so they would not be able to alter tumors or even cause cancer. “We have evidence that shows that the treatment does not increase the severity of the cancer, does not delay chemotherapy and does not cause any damage from the cancer point of view to the patient”, he concludes.
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