Fertility Preservation for Cancer Patients
Impact of Cancer Treatment on Fertility
Certain types of cancer treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy, can cause damage to the reproductive organs in addition to destroying cancer cells. Teenagers and women of childbearing age should speak with their oncologist about the fertility risks of their particular treatment regimen, and about whether they are an appropriate candidate for fertility preservation. After cancer treatment, some women will become infertile, or even go through menopause. The American Society for Clinical Oncology recommends that patients with a desire for future fertility be referred to a reproductive specialist as early as possible, ideally prior to beginning treatment. Our caring and professional staff is committed to supporting and helping cancer patients through what is often a challenging and overwhelming time.
Impact of Gynecologic Surgery on Fertility
Certain types of gynecologic problems may result in the surgical removal of one or both ovaries. Women who may require surgery to resect an ovary are at risk for decreased fertility in the future if a significant amount of ovarian tissue is lost.
Fertility Preservation in Cancer Patients
Advances in reproductive technology have allowed teenage girls and women to freeze eggs (for those without a partner) or embryos (for those with a partner) for future use. The entire process can often be completed within a few weeks, without delaying the start of cancer treatment. For women undergoing surgery prior to starting chemotherapy or radiation, a fertility preservation cycle is often scheduled in the time period between surgical treatment and the onset of medical therapy.
Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have and there is a significant decrease in the quality and quantity of a woman’s eggs over the course of her life. This effect becomes more dramatic in the late 30s and beyond, which is why older women often have more difficulty becoming pregnant and are also more prone to miscarriage. Cancer treatment can accelerate the typical age-related fertility decline. The advantage to having frozen eggs or embryos is that they will retain the genetic quality of the age at which they were frozen, and can later be used to achieve pregnancy after the completion of cancer treatment. Both embryos and eggs can be frozen and stored indefinitely.
Visit our Fertility Preservation page for more info about the egg freezing process.