Being told you have cancer and that it may affect your fertility can be devastating for people who haven’t started a family. Fortunately, the dream of having a child may be possible, thanks to continuing advances in fertility preservation. During Infertility Awareness Week, we explore the challenges people with cancer who want kids are facing, as well as the potential options available to them.
Every patient is an individual, so it’s important to work with your oncology team to find an approach that suits you. “Preserving your eggs/sperm before treatment may provide an ideal opportunity to minimize exposures that can affect egg/sperm quality and quantity, which can lead to infertility,” says Dr. Nicole Longo, an internist and Oncofertility Lead at our hospital in Philadelphia.
In order to provide optimal cancer treatment, your oncologist may advise you that it may be necessary to postpone pregnancy until a certain amount of therapy has been administered. You may also need to wait a specified amount of time after treatment is complete to allow the body an opportunity to cleanse itself to facilitate safer pregnancy.
Some fertility preservation options include:
- Egg, sperm and embryo cryopreservation, involves retrieving, freezing and storing for future use.
- Fertility-sparing surgery: Surgical techniques can preserve reproductive structures that would allow for future child-bearing either traditionally, or assisted by future IVF.
- Ovarian transposition: For women who receive radiation therapy as part of their treatment, this procedure surgically relocates the ovaries out of the field of radiation to protect them from potentially damaging radiation exposure.
- Preserving ovarian and testicular tissue: This option is currently being investigated to determine its effectiveness and how best to apply it.
Most importantly, if you have concerns about fertility, speak up. “Earlier discussions are always better whenever possible so that preservation, if appropriate, can be more readily incorporated into your treatment plan,” says Dr. Longo.
We offer Oncofertility Preservation Programs at our hospitals in Philadelphia, Tulsa and Zion.