Today, breakthrough advances in cancer care offer hope for long and productive lives. Increased survival for cancer patients leads to questions about quality of life. And for some people, that includes raising a family.
Cancer treatments may negatively affect a patient’s reproductive ability. This means some cancer patients may be sterile or infertile after treatment. Radiation and chemotherapy raise the risk of damage to the sperm, eggs, and reproductive organs. Surgical removal of the cervix, uterus or ovaries may make pregnancy difficult or impossible.
Fortunately, not all cancers or cancer treatment can impair fertility. But for many patients, when they are confronting the news of their diagnosis, they are also faced with making some big decisions about the possibility of having children in the future. Sometimes people who have been newly diagnosed only want to focus on their cancer treatment, and this is understandable. But, it is important to think about your desire for children in the future because there are options to possibly preserve your fertility.
It is important to discuss with your health care provider the risks and side effects associated with cancer treatment before the therapy is initiated. If you want to discuss reproductive issues or fertility preservation options, let your nurse or doctor know you would like to speak to a specialist.
Effects on Females
Cancer therapy may cause premature ovarian failure (the failure to produce mature eggs), premature menopause or anatomic damage to the reproductive system.
Effects on Males
Cancer therapy may cause premature testicular failure (the failure to produce sperm).
Options For Fertility Preservation
Well-established options for fertility preservation include:
- Sperm banking
- Embryo cryopreservation (freezing)
- Ovarian transposition (surgically moves the ovaries up and out of the way)
There are a number of other options under active clinical research to consider, including:
- Oocyte (egg) cryopreservation
- Ovarian tissue cryopreservation
- Hormonal ovarian down regulation
- Testicular sperm extraction
- Testicular tissue freezing
Other Options To Consider
- Third-party reproduction (donor eggs, sperm and embryos)
- Child-free living
There is no question that fertility preservation is an important service for cancer patients. With continual scientific advances in the field of fertility preservation, Willmar Regional Cancer Center is enthusiastic about sharing these new discoveries with our patients.