Fertility Preservation for Cancer Patients
Understanding Your Fertility Preservation Options When Cancer is Involved
Cancer treatments, specifically chemotherapy and radiation, are well documented to cause a decrease in fertility in both men and women. This is particularly true in younger patients. A renewed focus on fertility preservation has recently been placed on cancer patients, due in large part to the fact that cancer therapies have made huge strides over the last several decades, leading to a marked increase survival rates among cancer victims. Consequently, fertility after cancer treatment has become an important topic.
Fertility Preservation for Cancer Patients (Male)
Following cancer treatment, many men are unable to produce healthy sperm or ejaculate. Fortunately, sperm can easily be preserved and frozen beforehand for future use, and it’s minimally invasive. By cryopreserving semen before cancer treatment, many men can have children later in life with the help of fertility treatments.
Fertility Preservation for Cancer Patients (Female)
The female reproductive system works much differently. Women are born with all of the eggs they will ever have, and cancer treating agents, specifically certain types of chemotherapy and radiation, are known to have a devastating effect on both the number of surviving eggs and the genetic quality of the eggs even if they do survive. For many years, women thought if their regular menstrual cycles resumed following cancer treatment, then getting pregnant would be easy. We now know that these cancer therapies damage eggs, and the chances of fertility are much lower in women following such treatments even if they resume normal menstrual function.
Preserving your Fertility before Cancer Treatment
A variety of interventions have been proposed and implemented to minimize egg damage during cancer treatments. Many of these interventions, however, have offered a modest, if any, effect. One therapy that has shown to have significant impact on preserving fertility potential prior to cancer treatments is to perform an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle in which eggs are obtained and fertilized with sperm. The resultant embryos are then frozen. Unfortunately, for younger women undergoing cancer treatment, this is a less than ideal option because it demands using sperm at the time of the procedure. Many young women and adolescents in this position have not yet met their partner.
Over the past several years, the ability to perform an IVF cycle and effectively freeze unfertilized eggs, known as oocyte cryopreservation, has ushered in a new world of opportunities for young women with cancer. This procedure, thought of as experimental only several years ago, is emerging as a common procedure that is endorsed by major professional societies both in the fields of oncology and reproductive medicine.
When can Oocyte Preservation be Done?
Oocyte preservation can be reliably performed as soon as the early teens, or whenever someone’s menstrual cycle has begun. Coordinating fertility preservation prior to cancer treatments is vital to optimizing outcomes, since the success rates of oocyte preservation are poorer following chemotherapy treatments.
The physicians at Fertility Associates of Memphis are at the front of oocyte preservation technology and are dedicated to ensuring that all women with a cancer diagnosis receive fast accessibility. Our physicians strive to have cancer patients seen in our office within two business days of a referral request. Contact our office for more information at 901-747-2229.