Fertility Saving Options for Women Facing Cancer Treatment

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Being faced with the possibility of a cancer treatment can be scary and overwhelming. With the many questions that are whirling through your head, fertility may be the last thing on your mind. However, for many women this is a subject that needs to be touched early on in the diagnosis process.

If you have been diagnosed with cancer and have wanted to expand your family, there are options available to you. However, you should understand that trying to protect your fertility while you are going through cancer treatments means that there is just one more thing on your plate that you have to worry about.

1. What should you consider

Many of the chemotherapy drugs that are used today affect fertility negatively. In fact, the closer that a woman is to her menopause age, the more likely it is for her to enter menopause permanently. After the age of 40, women have a 50 to 60 percent chance of entering into permanent menopause when they undergo chemotherapy. However, there are still some options available for women who want to have children in the future.

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2. Embryo and Egg freezing

This is the most effective way of protecting your fertility. With this method, eggs will be taken from your body and frozen with the intent of being used at a later time. There are many things that you will need to consider before choosing this route, many of which is personal views or religious backgrounds.

You will need to be given injectable fertility drugs so that your ovaries will produce as many eggs as possible. A short outpatient surgical procedure is required for the eggs to be removed.

egg-freezing

You also have a couple of options to consider when the eggs are being stored. Either the eggs can be frozen alone, or they can be fertilized and frozen as an embryo. This method is also extremely expensive, but you may be able to find assistance in some places.

3. Ovarian Tissue Freezing

This method is still in the experimental stage, but it is still an option for many women. This is most effective for women who are young and must start cancer treatment immediately, leaving her with not enough time to freeze eggs or embryos.

Ovarian-Tissue-Freezing

With this method an outpatient surgical procedure is required where a portion of the woman’s ovarian tissue is removed and frozen. The tissue can then be unfrozen and surgically replaced when she is ready to get pregnant. However, there are those women who should not have this procedure, including women with blood cancers like leukemia or those who have the BRCA mutation gene. This gene puts a woman at a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.

4. Ovarian Suppression

This method is only effective in certain circumstances, such as women with certain types of breast cancer. In it, the woman’s ovaries are temporarily shut down via a special medication. It is believed that this process makes them stronger and more resistant to the damages that can be caused by chemotherapy. This method is also experimental and studies are still being conducted with it.

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5. Using Donor Eggs

Donor eggs are available and have helped many women to get pregnant. However, the child will not carry the mother’s genes and some women have found this to be an issue. At times, some women have found that they cannot safely carry a pregnancy and may choose to use a surrogate instead. In this situation there are agencies that will help women to select a surrogate and typically the hospital and medical bills will be covered by the parents of the baby.

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6. Conclusion

There are many ways that a woman who is facing cancer can still have children. Most of these methods are expensive, however and many people may not be able to afford them. One final option for couples, who are looking to have kids, is to adopt after the cancer has been defeated. There are many agencies available, but it may be difficult for a couple who has gone through cancer treatments to qualify for adoption.

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The most important thing when planning to increase the size of your family after your cancer treatments is to plan ahead as soon as possible. Many of the methods that are possible take some time to have completed so the sooner you can begin planning for your fertility after treatment, the better.

Ms. Belanger has 20 years of experience in women's healthcare and nursing, including labor and delivery, postpartum and antenatal. She is passionate toward improving both maternal and fetal outcomes of high-risk obstetrics patients.