Cancer and Infertility
A very real and unfortunate side effect of cancer and cancer treatment is infertility. Various types of cancer and cancer treatments may have different effects on a woman’s fertility. Talk with your physician about the common side effects of your specific cancer type, as well as the effects of various treatments. Keep in mind that timing may play a crucial role in preserving fertility and that your doctor may recommend immediate action depending upon the severity of your diagnosis.
Cancer treatment with chemotherapy may affect fertility. The effects of chemotherapy for women depend on: age, drug type, drug quantity, and length of treatment.
Women who receive chemotherapy may have a change in their periods or menstrual cycles. Periods may become irregular, and flow may decrease or stop. Some women develop symptoms of menopause such as vaginal dryness and hot flashes. Younger women may have irregular periods during chemotherapy and may resume normal periods following treatment. Women who resume normal cycles after treatment may still be at risk for early menopause as their egg supply may have been damaged. Women over 40 are more likely to go into menopause immediately after treatment, which means they will never resume their cycle.
Radiation to the pelvis or area of the reproductive organs can damage or destroy reproductive tissues and cells. This damage may be permanent or just temporary. As with chemotherapy, hormones are sometimes given along with treatment to improve the chances of having children once treatment is complete. Again, the administration of hormones may have negative effects on certain kinds of cancer.
Some cancer surgeries may affect a woman’s ability to have a child. Speak with your physician about how a specific procedure may affect your fertility and ability to carry a baby.
Fortunately, there is hope for pregnancy depending on the type and extent of cancer. Below are several options for women facing cancer-related infertility.
Currently, embryo freezing is the most widely available and most standard practice. CCRM offers embryo freezing to patients with certain types of cancer. This procedure involves removing mature eggs during in vitro fertilization ([glossary]IVF[/glossary]), combining them with partner or donor sperm in the laboratory, freezing, and then storing them. In standard IVF, eggs are matured through the use of hormone therapy. Because of the effects of hormones on certain types of cancer, embryo freezing is not an option for all cancer patients.
The embryo freezing process typically takes between 4-6 weeks and is available for women after puberty. Embryos may be stored until the cancer is in successful remission.
Your physician will let you know when it is safe to attempt pregnancy after cancer treatment. Once a patient has the approval of her physician, a CCRM physician will continue the IVF process by removing a limited number of frozen embryos from storage and implanting them into the patient’s [glossary]uterus[/glossary]. Although there is no guarantee of pregnancy, CCRM consistently achieves some of the highest pregnancy success rates from IVF in the United States.
Egg freezing may be another viable option. During this process, unfertilized eggs are removed, frozen and stored for use at a later time. The procedure is similar to embryo freezing and requires the use of hormone therapy. Because of the effects of hormones on certain types of cancer, egg freezing is not an option for all cancer patients.
The egg freezing process typically takes two to six weeks and is available for women after puberty. Eggs may be stored until the cancer is in successful remission.
Embryo Transfer with Donor Eggs
In the event that a woman’s ovarian function is diminished as a result of chemotherapy or radiation, she may have the option of embryo transfer using donor eggs. During this procedure, a known or anonymous donor contributes eggs to be combined with a partner’s sperm. The fertilized embryo is then transferred into the patient’s uterus in an attempt at pregnancy.
CCRM offers the largest egg donor program in Colorado. All donors are carefully screened before being accepted into the program. Click here for more information about the CCRM egg donor program.
CCRM Offers Financial Assistance for Fertility Preservation
CCRM is pleased to be able to support our community by offering its services at a discounted rate for recently diagnosed cancer patients seeking to preserve their fertility.
In addition, CCRM aligns itself with pharmaceutical companies and local pharmacies to provide access to fertility medications and support.
New Patient Appointment
To schedule a priority appointment, please contact the clinic nearest you or schedule an appointment online. Be sure to indicate that you are an oncofertility patient and require an appointment as soon as possible. CCRM specializes in fertility and cancer issues, and we can help you conceive the child you have always dreamed about having.