Thinking about future fertility is a low priority for most when diagnosed with cancer. But thanks to modern therapy cancer is often a chronic disease and in many cases can be cured or sufficiently ameliorated to allow years of quality living. Potentially safeguarding future fertility before undergoing cancer treatments including chemotherapy, radiation or surgery should be part of the discussion prior to initiating therapy since cancer treatment can threaten the ability to have children. Many factors affect fertility including the person’s age, weight, type of cancer, and type of proposed therapy to treat the cancer.
Some may need to start treatment without delay while others may be afforded time long enough (three to six weeks) to harvest eggs from women to create embryos for cryopreservation or to cryopreserve the eggs themselves. For men, a day or so may be afforded to collect and freeze sperm for later use. The oncology team has an obligation to discuss the risk of cancer treatment to future fertility. If time allows patients getting ready to be treated for cncer should be offered a referral to an infertility specialist with expertise in cryopreservation methodology to potentially preserve their future fertility.
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