There are many factors involved in determining the risk of infertility after cancer treatment, such as age, treatment type, and underlying fertility potential. If the cancer is treatable by surgery alone, there is no risk of infertility (related to the cancer diagnosis). The jury is still out on radiation; it may have some effect on fertility. However, there’s a clear correlation between chemotherapy and potential loss of fertility. Chemotherapy can bring on premature ovarian failure, or even early menopause. Here, Sergio Oehninger, MD, PhD of Sher Fertility Institute New York describes how to move forward on your fertility journey once you’ve been diagnosed.
Pre-Cancer Fertility Preservation:
If you’re a breast cancer patient who hopes to have children someday, educating yourself on fertility preservation options is one of the best steps you can take to maintain control of your future. Your doctor at Sher Fertility Institute New York will work with you to determine which choice is right for you.
IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) & Embryo Banking: Embryo banking is the most established form of fertility preservation and is a wonderful option for women with a male partner or those interested in using donor sperm. IVF and embryo banking involves stimulating the ovaries to produce multiple eggs, combining the eggs with sperm in a laboratory setting, and freezing the resulting embryos. The process occurs over two to four weeks, so is best for women who can safely delay cancer therapy for that amount of time. The embryos are implanted after cancer treatment and recovery.
Egg Banking: The process to bank eggs is similar to embryo banking in that it involves the same ovarian stimulation to produce multiple eggs. The eggs are retrieved from the ovaries and then frozen without being fertilized; they are fertilized at a later date and the resulting embryos are implanted after cancer treatment and recovery.
Ovarian Tissue Banking: This is an option for women who cannot safely delay cancer treatment long enough to undergo embryo or egg banking. Laparoscopy, a minor surgical procedure, is used to remove one ovary. The cortex, or outer surface, contains the eggs; it is removed and frozen in strips for later use. Women who have had certain types of cancer can then have the tissue thawed and transplanted back.
Post-Cancer Family Building: Egg donation is an excellent choice for women whose cancer therapy caused them to become menopausal. A known or anonymous egg donor would undergo ovarian stimulation. Her eggs would be fertilized by sperm, and the resulting embryos would be implanted into your uterus.
Some cancer survivors who are unable to carry a pregnancy turn to gestational surrogacy. The patient would undergo IVF, and the embryos from the intended parents (the patient and her partner) would be implanted into the gestational surrogate.
More than ever, patients who undergo fertility-threatening cancer treatments are surviving their disease and looking forward to the future. Other cancer treatments are nowadays possible to help with due to improved cure-survival rates: breast cancer, haematological cancer, gynaecological cancer, gastrointestinal cancer and others. Building a family is often a very important part of that future.
If you’re a cancer patient and would like more information on the fertility preserving options available to you, Contact Sher Fertility Institute New York at 646-792-7476 or click here to schedule an appointment with one of our fertility doctors. Our Patient Care Specialists will contact you within the next 24 hours. We recognize that time is often of the essence and are committed to making every effort to see you as soon as possible.