Fertility Preservation

Reproductive Options When Facing Cancer Or Desiring To Delay Childbearing

Cancer is diagnosed in more than 140,000 individuals under the age of 45 each year. When faced with a life-threatening illness, preserving fertility or becoming a parent may be one of the last things on your mind. However, treatments for young adults with cancer are now more successful than ever before. As a result, an ever-growing number of cancer survivors are now able to focus their energy on starting, or expanding, their families. Unfortunately, many of the treatments that help fight cancer also affect the ability to have children.

If you have already had treatment and find no success with natural conception, you may still be able to get pregnant naturally depending on your cancer therapy.

Fertility Preservation and Treatment Options

For Men and Women

Testing your fertility:

  • Certain blood tests, imaging studies, and a semen analysis (for men) can be used to assess your fertility potential.
  • Evaluation and counseling: Meet with the experts before and after treatments to discuss personalized fertility goals and prognosis based on individual characteristics such as age, cancer diagnosis and cancer treatment regimen.

For Women

Before treatment:

  • Embryo freezing: Eggs are matured with the use of injectable hormones, removed, fertilized in vitro (outside the body) with sperm, frozen and stored.
  • Egg freezing: Eggs are matured with the use of injectable hormones, removed, frozen, and stored without being fertilized.
  • Ovarian suppression: Medications administered during cancer treatment to protect the ovaries and reduce the risk of infertility.
  • Ovarian transposition: Surgically displacing the ovaries prior to radiation therapy to minimize damage.

After treatment:

  • Ovulation induction and assisted reproductive technologies: Eggs are matured with the use of oral or injectable medications, and are then fertilized in the body or removed and fertilized outside the body (in vitro) with sperm; resulting embryos are then transferred to the patient or frozen and stored.
  • Egg donation: Eggs from a comprehensively screened donor are matured, removed, and fertilized using sperm outside the body; resulting embryos are then to the patient, who will carry the pregnancy.

For Men

Before treatment:

  • Sperm banking: Semen is collected, frozen, and stored.
  • Percutaneous sperm aspiration (PESA): Sperm are obtained through a needle aspiration of the epidydimis, or storage area, outside the testis.
  • Testicular sperm extraction: Testicular tissue is obtained through an open biopsy and sperm cells are isolated, frozen and stored.
  • Testicular tissue freezing: Testicular tissue, including the cells that produce sperm, is removed, frozen and stored.

After treatment:

  • Intrauterine insemination (IUI): Use of a small catheter to place concentrated sperm within the uterus of the female partner can be used to overcome slightly diminished semen quantity or quality.
  • Assisted reproductive technologies: In vitro fertilization (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) can be used to fertilize eggs that are matured and removed from your partner, using even just a few sperm.
  • Donor sperm: Sperm from a comprehensively screened donor can be used for insemination or assisted reproductive technologies.

Delaying Having A Child

Many women know in the 20s that they will choose to pursue advanced degrees and/or their career and delay having children. It’s not uncommon to become so involved in career, and life in general, that you turn around and find you are in your mid-30s and ready to think about a family. The challenge is that biological clock. The quality of your eggs, and risk of complications, can become a barrier to getting pregnant and having a healthy child. Simply put, your younger eggs are normally your better eggs with statistics showing a steep decline in a woman’s mid-30s.

The good news is the fast freezing technology (vitrification) now provides younger women with an option. Freeze and bank your younger eggs in your 20s and have them available when you are ready for your family.

Think of it as a most-precious insurance policy. Imagine the peace of mind knowing that you can have your own biological child, even well into your 40s thanks to your preplanning now.