Cancer & Fertility Preservation
Hearing the words, “I am sorry, but you have cancer” is a moment that changes your life and a moment that no one can really prepare for. So many decisions have to be made in a short amount of time. And that can be overwhelming. For many Americans diagnosed with cancer under age of 45, an aspect that is often overlooked is how cancer treatment can affect fertility.
Though advances in medical research and medicines have led to higher survival rates for cancer patients, many survivors are told after treatment that their fertility has been compromised by chemotherapy, radiation, or certain surgeries.
Cancer Diagnosis and Fertility
What Are the Fertility Options for Cancer Patients?
Genetics & IVF Institute offers several options to provide hope for cancer patients who want to build a family in the future. The best results are achieved by starting fertility treatments before beginning cancer treatments.
Sperm banking is one of the most successful, least expensive options for men diagnosed with cancer. Even if they have very low sperm counts, men can freeze their sperm for long periods of time, and then successfully use their frozen samples to have children. Our in-house sperm bank, Fairfax Cryobank, is a world leader in sperm storage for male cancer patients and has the resources to immediately help those with the unexpected need to freeze sperm or testicular tissue.
Egg freezing or embryo cryopreservation are proven options for female cancer patients. Survival rates for frozen eggs and embryos average over 90%. Pregnancy chances are typically similar to those with fresh eggs and sperm. Once the patient has completed cancer treatment and is cleared by their oncologist, the patient may continue the IVF process with a frozen embryo transfer cycle or an egg warming cycle.
Donor egg IVF is another highly successful option for cancer patients. Despite the harmful side effects that cancer treatment may cause, with the approval of their oncologist, the patient can still become pregnant using donor egg.
Data shows that there is no increased risk of cancer recurrence with donor egg IVF, even for those patients with breast cancer who become pregnant. There also appears to be no increased risk of miscarriage, congenital abnormalities, or pregnancy complications.
Patients with genetically linked cancer (e.g. BRCA mutation for breast cancer) may risk passing on those cancer genes to their offspring. In these situations, patients may want to pursue IVF with preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) to screen embryos for the genetically linked cancer before using the embryos in an IVF cycle.
The most important concern for any newly diagnosed cancer patient is to quickly consult with a fertility specialist to see what options may work for their unique circumstances.