Due to recent medical advances, a cancer diagnosis–although devastating–no longer means the loss of life or even ultimate fertility. Fertility preservation options should be considered when planning cancer treatment because chemotherapy and radiation, the standards of care in cancer treatment, can result in gonadotoxicity rendering both men and women permanently sterile.
The new field of Oncofertility focuses on the importance of maintaining reproductive potential in cancer patients using a multidisciplinary approach including the oncologist and reproductive endocrinologist infertility specialist. Fertility preservation options depend on many factors including: the age of the patient; tumor type, stage and treatment plan; timing of treatment; and both financial and psychological factors.
Men may best preserve their fertility potential by sperm freezing prior to initiation of chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Fertility preservation in women is more complicated and may depend on her relationship status and most importantly on whether there is time available to initiate an emergency in vitro fertilization (IVF) or Egg Freezing Cycle using oocyte vitrification. The Fertility Centers of New England has the most cost competitive, experienced and successful Oocyte Vitrification Program in New England which has enabled hundreds of women to preserve their fertility potential through oocyte and embryo vitrification.
Other options for women may include ovarian tissue cryopreservation or in cases where defined radiation is to be given as in Hodgkin disease, fertility sparing surgery to move the ovaries away from the field of radiation by laparoscopic lateral transposition and fixation of ovaries to the abdominal wall.
The optimal timing of a subsequent pregnancy after cancer depends on the patient’s prognosis, age, and personal situation.
In cases where fertility preservation is not possible other options still exist for cancer survivors who no longer have the ability to procreate. These include Egg and Sperm donation, surrogacy, embryo adoption, and conventional adoption.
For further information, please contact one of our patient service representatives and visit the following links: American Cancer Society; National Cancer Institute; Fertile Hope; and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.