Single and young married women who have been diagnosed with cancer may unexpectedly be faced with the possibility that they may not have children. The loss of fertility can be an unpleasant side effect of life-saving cancer treatments. Fertility preservation for these cancer patients is an important consideration and adequate counselling must be provided prior to starting cancer treatments.
Egg (oocyte) freezing, offers many cancer patients the opportunity to “back-up” their fertility before radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery for removal of the diseased part, which can cause the woman to be infertile by destroying her eggs.
Depending on the type, location and extent of cancer, your infertility specialist may prescribe the ovaries to be stimulated with fertility medications, carefully monitored to encourage a large number of follicles to grow and mature healthy eggs to be retrieved. The recent progress in egg vitrification (flash-freezing) and high frozen egg survival rates have made egg vitrification an efficient procedure for fertility preservation.
If the woman is married, the eggs may be fertilized with her husband’s sperm and resulting good quality embryos will be frozen. The frozen eggs or embryos are safe while the patient undergoes cancer treatments. When she has recovered and becomes healthy again, the eggs and embryos may be warmed for several attempts at pregnancy.
For prepubertal girls and patients who cannot delay the start of cancer treatments, another option for fertility preservation is ovarian tissue cryopreservation and subsequent reimplantation.
Men diagnosed with cancer may have their semen samples frozen before undergoing treatment for cancer.