A cancer diagnosis impacts your entire life, including your chances of having a family. Modern medical advancements have given young cancer patients reasons to hope for long, successful lives. Many of the treatment options, however, can result in the loss of fertility. Often, your oncologist may suggest fertility preservation before treatment begins so that you will have choices when the time is right to begin or expand your family.
For female cancer patients, ovarian damage or failure, early menopause, genetic damage to growing eggs and other reproductive problems may occur because of cancer therapy. Male cancer survivors often experience testicular damage and sperm production issues. Because it is difficult to predict what may happen after cancer treatment, taking steps to ensure your fertility before therapy begins is the best option.
Female fertility preservation may include:
For this process, the ovaries are stimulated to produce multiple eggs, which are harvested and fertilized with sperm via in-vitro fertilization (IVF). The embryos are then frozen for use in the future.
A newer technology, egg banking involves stimulation of the ovaries to generate multiple eggs, which are frozen before fertilization.
With ovarian tissue banking, one ovary is removed and the cortex, the outer surface that contains the eggs, is cut into sections and frozen for the future. At some point, the tissue can be thawed and place back in the body in the hopes of a successful pregnancy.
Depending on the type of cancer, your physician may be able to move the ovary to a different location in the pelvis area to prevent radiation damage.
Male fertility preservation can involve:
Male cancer patients can have sperm collected and frozen for a later time.
Sometimes, the testicular tissue, which includes cells that produce sperm and sperm itself, are removed and frozen.