A diagnosis of cancer brings many important decisions into a woman’s life. While chemotherapy, radiation and surgery can effectively treat cancer, these treatments may also affect a woman’s fertility. Women undergoing treatment for other diseases, such as lupus and certain autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, also risk losing their fertility.
But these treatments don’t have to end a woman’s or even a young girl’s hopes of having a family. Today, in some but not all cases, women with cancer may have the option to preserve their fertility by freezing their eggs or embryos before undergoing cancer treatment.
Oocyte/egg cryopreservation provides young women facing chemotherapy or radiation for treatment the possible opportunity to preserve their fertility. The advancements in cancer treatments are ensuring that many of these cancer survivors are living long lives. Thus, the possible opportunity to preserve their ability to have children later in life is of increasing importance. This is true also of women facing some ovarian surgeries for non-cancerous diseases or those whose occupation or environment may endanger their fertility, such as environmental toxins, x-rays or anesthetics, or those with a family history of early menopause.
The physicians and staff at the Center for Fertility Preservation are sensitive to how overwhelming it can be to think about treating a potentially life-threatening disease and, on top of that, consider additional treatment to preserve future fertility. Our Center has created a special cancer care team to immediately respond to your inquiries, help you understand your options, collaborate with your oncologist, and expedite fertility preservation treatment, if appropriate.
How Cancer Treatments Can Affect Fertility
• For women undergoing radiation treatment to the lower abdomen, there is a risk that the radiation could damage or destroy their ovaries, depending on the size and location of the tumor and the radiation dosage prescribed. When ovarian function is damaged or destroyed, women stop producing female hormones, go into menopause and lose their ability to bear children.
• Depending on the woman’s age, the type of chemotherapy prescribed and the dosage, chemotherapy can damage or destroy ovaries while destroying the cancer.
• With cancers that affect the female reproductive organs, the best treatment option may be surgery to remove those organs.
Fertility Preservation Options
The Center for Fertility Preservation offers two options for women who have been diagnosed with cancer and want to preserve their fertility prior to treatment. The decision to undergo preservation treatment is made collaboratively by you, your oncologist and a fertility specialist at Shady Grove Fertility.
Egg Freezing – women can undergo an egg freezing cycle prior to cancer treatment. The eggs would be available for use at a later date.
Embryo Cryopreservation – women undergo an IVF cycle which is similar to egg freezing cycle but instead of freezing the eggs, the fresh eggs are fertilized with a male partner’s sperm. The resulting embryo(s) would be frozen for future use.
Male Fertility Preservation
Sperm preservation is available through Fairfax Cryobank. Please contact Markos Meleku at 703-968-3969 for more information.
To learn more about Egg Freezing / Fertility Preservation, please call our patient liaisons at 1-877-411-9292.