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Fertility Preservation Options for Cancer Patients: What You Need to Know

A cancer diagnosis can change a person’s life and present a number of difficulties and unknowns. Among the main worries for those of reproductive age is the possible effects of cancer therapy on their fertility and future capacity to conceive. Still, fertility preservation possibilities can be investigated before beginning cancer therapy thanks to developments in reproductive medicine. We’ll look at the choices, advice, and crucial factors to keep fertility intact while battling cancer in this post.

How Can Cancer Patients Preserve Their Fertility?

Before beginning treatment, leading medical societies, such as the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), advise healthcare professionals to talk with cancer patients of reproductive age about the possible risk of infertility and fertility preservation options.

After receiving a cancer diagnosis, this conversation should occur as soon as possible since, depending on how urgently the illness needs to be treated, some fertility preservation therapies may need to be started right away. The advice underlines the need of consulting a reproductive specialist early on in order to investigate and pursue suitable fertility preservation alternatives.

How Can a Female Cancer Patient Preserve Her Fertility?

Female cancer patients have a number of choices for preserving their fertility before beginning treatment:

Oocyte Cryopreservation, or Egg Freezing

Egg freezing is the procedure of taking out, freezing, and storing a woman’s eggs for later use. This choice enables the possible use of the frozen eggs for IVF (in vitro fertilization) once cancer treatment is completed.

Embryo Freezing

This procedure involves taking out a woman’s eggs and fertilizing them with sperm to produce embryos. The embryos are then preserved by freezing and kept for use in an embryo transfer later on.

Ovarian Tissue Freezing

Under this experimental method, immature eggs are surgically removed and frozen from a section of the ovarian tissue. After cancer therapy, the frozen tissue might be reintroduced into the patient in an attempt to restore ovarian function and fertility.

How Can I Preserve My Fertility While Receiving Chemotherapy?

Especially in women, some chemotherapy medications can seriously impair fertility. There are some methods, though, that can help preserve fertility while undergoing chemotherapy:

Ovarian Suppression

During chemotherapy, medicines are used to temporarily shut down the ovaries, therefore lowering the risk of chemotherapy-related damage to eggs.

Ovarian Transposition

This surgical technique lowers the chance of radiation-related harm to the ovaries by moving them away from the radiation field prior to radiation treatment.

Surgery

A radical trachelectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the cervix and surrounding tissues, but not the uterus, to treat early-stage cervical cancer while preserving fertility. It’s also known as a trachelectomy, radical trachelectomy, or cervicectomy.

Accessed from: Cancer.org website

What Are the Options for Fertility Preservation for Men?

The foundation of fertility preservation for male cancer patients is:

Sperm Cryopreservation, or Sperm Banking

Before beginning cancer therapy, samples of a man’s sperm are taken and frozen. The frozen sperm can be used for IVF or intrauterine insemination (IUI) treatments later down the road once cancer therapy is over.

If you Have Cancer, Can You Freeze Your Eggs?

Yes, women with cancer who want to maintain their fertility before beginning treatment have the choice of egg freezing, also known as oocyte cryopreservation. Still, a few crucial factors should be taken into account:

Time Constraints

Usually taking two to three weeks, egg freezing may not be possible for some patients who require immediate cancer therapy. Alternatively, in such circumstances, one may think of freezing ovarian tissue or embryos.

Hormone-Stimulation

Injections of hormones to encourage the ovaries to generate several eggs for retrieval are usually part of egg freezing procedures. In certain hormone-sensitive cancers, such as breast cancer, this hormone stimulation might not be advised and other possibilities may need to be investigated.

Cancer Type and Stage

The suitability and advice for egg freezing can also be influenced by the kind and stage of cancer. Your reproductive expert and oncologist will assess your particular circumstances closely to decide on the best course of action.

Can Cancer Patients Freeze Sperm?

Yes, men with cancer who want to keep their fertility intact before beginning treatment have the choice of sperm freezing, or cryopreservation. Sperm freezing is more accessible to many cancer patients than egg freezing because it doesn’t need hormone stimulation and can usually be finished quickly.

Note that sperm quality and production may be impacted by some cancer therapies, including radiation and chemotherapy. Therefore, whenever at all feasible, sperm samples should be frozen before beginning therapy.

Further Things to Think About

Apart from the above listed possibilities, cancer patients considering fertility preservation should take into account a few further crucial factors:

Infertility Advice

Seeking fertility counseling with a reproductive professional is strongly advised to learn about the possible effects of cancer therapy on fertility, to go over the various options, and to get advice on the best course of action depending on personal circumstances.

Cost and Insurance Coverage

Methods for preserving fertility can be expensive, and insurance coverage varies. Talk to your insurance company and healthcare provider about possible coverage and expenses.

Emotional Support

Having a cancer diagnosis and deciding to try fertility preservation can be emotionally taxing. Couples and individuals may find aid navigating this challenging path by turning to loved ones, counselors, or support groups.

Long-term Follow-up

Working with a reproductive specialist to determine fertility status and investigate possibilities for using stored eggs, embryos, or sperm to start a family at the appropriate time is crucial when cancer treatment is over.

When a cancer patient is navigating fertility preservation options, it can be a difficult and emotional procedure. But you can make wise choices that fit your objectives and priorities if you collaborate closely with your oncology team, reproductive specialists, and get the right help. Retaining your fertility while battling cancer requires open communication, early preparation, and a multidisciplinary strategy.

FAQ:

What is fertility preservation and why is it important for cancer patients?

Cancer treatment can harm fertility in both men and women. Fertility preservation allows patients to have options for starting a family after cancer treatment.

How can a cancer patient learn about fertility preservation options?

Talk to your doctor as soon as possible after receiving a cancer diagnosis. Time is critical for some fertility preservation methods.

What are the fertility preservation options for women with cancer?

Egg freezing (oocyte cryopreservation) and ovarian tissue freezing (experimental)

What are the fertility preservation options for men with cancer?

Sperm banking (cryopreservation): Sperm is collected, frozen, and stored for later use in IUI or IVF.

What are some factors to consider when deciding about egg freezing?

Time constraints: Egg freezing may not be an option if immediate cancer treatment is needed.

Hormone stimulation: Egg freezing involves hormone injections, which may not be advisable for certain cancers.

Cancer type and stage: The suitability of egg freezing depends on the specific cancer diagnosis.

Can men with cancer freeze sperm?

Yes, sperm banking is a simpler and more accessible option for most men compared to egg freezing. It’s recommended to freeze sperm before starting cancer treatment whenever possible.

What other things should cancer patients consider regarding fertility preservation?

Seek fertility counseling, understand costs and insurance coverage, get emotional support and plan for long-term follow-up.

  • Published on : Thursday June 20, 2024
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About the author

Michelle Tan is an IVF Consultant with 12 years of experience in fertility consulting. Having personally undergone IVF and surrogacy, she brings firsthand insight and empathy to her work. Based in Singapore, Michelle frequently travels to clinics in Bangkok, Phnom Penh, and Bishkek, sharing her expertise and supporting patients on their fertility journeys.