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Tips on conceiving after cancer treatment

If you have been diagnosed with cancer, here are some tips to help safeguard fertility:

  • Talk to your doctor – Let your oncologist know that conceiving is important to you, as soon as you are diagnosed. Ask about treatment options that will protect your fertility, as there are many conservative and minimally invasive surgical options and other advanced treatments available.
  • Understand potential side effects - Before treatment begins, make sure that you fully understand all of the treatment options available to you, and the potential effects that each one may have on future fertility. This will help you make a more informed treatment decision.
  • Find a fertility specialist – Once you are ready to conceive, a fertility specialist can give advice to help improve your chances of conceiving, and perhaps suggest prescription drugs or vitamins, which can boost fertility for both men and women.
  • Seek support – Join a local support group or an online community to share your thoughts and feelings with others who are in a similar position. Speaking with a professional counselor or spiritual advisor is another option.
  • Be patient – As much as you want to get started with conceiving immediately after completing treatment, it is important to wait for your doctor’s approval. Most women are advised to wait six month before attempting to get pregnant. For men, there is no official waiting period; however, following radiation or chemotherapy, experts recommend waiting six to 12 months.
  • Try and try again – If having a child is important to you and trying to conceive on your own hasn’t worked, there are numerous assisted reproductive technologies (ART):
    • In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) – During this process, previously harvested sperm samples or eggs (see below) are fertilized in a laboratory dish to create an embryo, which is implanted in the uterus. Sometimes, several embryos are transferred to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy.
      • Freeze eggs, sperm or embryos prior to treatment:
        • Sperm freezing- Also known as semen cryopreservation, a man provides a semen sample, which is stored at very low temperatures in a sperm banking facility.
        • Embryo freezing – During an outpatient procedure, a woman’s eggs are harvested from the ovaries and fertilized in a lab with her partner’s sperm (or donor sperm) through IVF to create embryos, which are frozen for future use.
        • Egg freezing – During an outpatient procedure, a woman’s eggs are harvested from the ovaries and frozen for future use. Studies show that frozen embryos are more likely to result in a successful pregnancy than frozen eggs, which requires sperm from a partner or donor.
        • Ovarian tissue freezing – This experimental technique surgically removes, preserves and reimplants a woman’s ovarian tissue. This may be an option for women who can’t delay treatment long enough for egg harvesting.
    • Surrogacy – After cancer treatment, some women may not be able to carry a baby to term because the uterus or cervix was affected during treatment. In the case of surrogacy, an embryo cultured with IVF is implanted in another woman’s uterus, who carries the baby to term.
    • Adoption – This is an option for anyone who wishes to have a child. A certified adoption agency can assist with both domestic and international adoptions.
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