Women facing cancer can find hope with fertility preservation
After the initial shock of a cancer diagnosis, your immediate thoughts are probably about how soon cancer treatment can begin. But what many women of child-bearing age don’t think about before it’s often too late is that chemotherapy, radiation and other cancer-killing medications may jeopardize future fertility. However, young cancer patients who are concerned about their future fertility can find hope with fertility preservation with the specialists at our Louisiana fertility centers.
Forty to eighty percent of female cancer patients become infertile after cancer treatment and for women of childbearing age, this can be quite devastating, especially if they have yet to start a family. With the rising trend of delaying childbearing, more female cancer patients are diagnosed without having completed their families. Thus, it is vital to provide reliable fertility preservation methods for these young women.
Egg freezing is a popular option before cancer treatment
For women in their 20s and 30s, fertility preservation most often means using advanced cryopreservation (freezing) techniques to freeze a woman’s oocytes (unfertilized eggs) to store for future use. During an egg freezing cycle, you will go through many of the same steps that are involved in a typical in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle commonly used for women who are having fertility issues. These steps include ovulation stimulation, ultrasound monitoring, and egg retrieval. After your egg retrieval, the eggs are cultured for a few hours and then frozen the same day. You may also choose to have her eggs fertilized to create embryos which can be cryopreserved to be implanted at a later date.
An emerging technique, ovarian tissue freezing, is another option ideal for prepubertal girls, women who cannot delay cancer treatment, or those unwilling or unable to undergo ovarian stimulation. It requires surgery to harvest a part of the ovary before cancer treatment that is cryopreserved for later use. This healthy ovarian tissue is later grafted back into the pelvic area and then stimulated to produce eggs that can be fertilized through in vitro fertilization, IVF. Ovarian tissue freezing is less common because egg freezing is easier and probably more successful.
Another option that provides hope with fertility preservation is to consider surgically moving the ovaries out of the radiation field entirely. In this procedure, the ovaries are surgically removed from the pelvis and reattached to a place where they will not be subject to such a high dose of radiation.
One option for those that cannot go through stimulation and egg retrieval is ovarian suppression with hormone medications. Ovarian suppression has the distinct advantage of being the least invasive therapy of all the preservation methods. Hormones can be given that “protect” the eggs against the harmful effects of chemotherapy. Temporary suppression of ovarian function with the hormone LHRHa can significantly reduce the risk of primary ovarian insufficiency, (POI), caused by chemotherapy. Sometimes ovarian suppression is the only option and should be considered especially if there is not enough time for egg retrieval or surgery.
Discuss your options for fertility preservation with your medical team
To help patients determine if they are candidates for any of these options, women should discuss the potential effects of their cancer medicine and treatment on their future fertility with their oncologist as soon as possible. Specifically, they need to ask how the cancer and its treatment can affect their fertility, how quickly does cancer treatment need to start, and how much time will she have to preserve her fertility before starting treatments. If fertility preservation can be started before cancer treatment, the oncologist will then work with the patient and a reproductive endocrinologist to discuss in greater detail all of these options available so the patient can make an informed decision.
If you are looking for hope with fertility preservation after a cancer diagnosis, contact the specialists at Fertility Answers to learn more.