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The Center for Fertility and Gynecology

Fertility Preservation: A Future for Cancer Patients

By Paula Hovell on April 15, 2016

A woman holding an egg in front of her bellyThe Center for Fertility and Gynecology offers a whole host of treatments to the people of Los Angeles. This includes advanced treatments to address male and female factor infertility as well as procedures that are designed to ensure that start of a family at a later date. This is known as fertility preservation, which is available to men and women.

There are many reasons to consider fertility preservation techniques, including socioeconomic matters wellness concerns. We'd like to focus on the latter since fertility preservation is a common discussion among people diagnosed with cancer.

How Cancer Can Affect Your Fertility

When it comes to a person's ability to have children, both cancer and treatments for cancer can have a major impact on fertility.

If you have cancer that affects the uterus, ovaries, testicles, or other parts of the reproductive system, these organs may have to be surgically removed in order to prevent the spread of cancer. Similarly, chemotherapy and radiation therapy can have adverse effects on these organs, affecting hormone levels and other normal functions of these organs. There is a chance that cancer treatment may render you infertile or sterile.

What Is Fertility Preservation?

Given the risks above, this is why fertility preservation is so important to consider. Fertility preservation refers to different methods available to help ensure a person is able to have children later in life even after a serious battle with cancer.

In essence, these fertility preservation procedures use cryopreservation methods, which cools collected tissues and biological material at a sub-zero level, preventing degeneration of the preserved cells. These preserved samples can then be thawed and used in fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) or artificial insemination.

Fertility Preservation Options for Women

When preserving fertility in women, there are three common methods:

  • Egg Freezing (Oocyte Cryopreservation) – During egg freezing, ovulation is induced with fertility drugs so fertility specialists can then take healthy, viable eggs to be frozen/preserved.

  • Embryo Cryopreservation – Similar to egg freezing, this process freezes embryos. Embryos are fertilized eggs that are beginning the process of cellular division.

  • Gonadal Shielding – This process places special shields that reduce the amount of radiation that a patient's reproductive organs are exposed to during cancer treatment.

Fertility Preservation Options for Men

When preserving fertility in men, there are two common methods:

  • Sperm Cryopreservation – Similar to egg and embryo procedures in women, sperm freezing involves preserving a sperm sample taken from a male patient to be used at a later time. Sometimes sperm extraction techniques are used to obtain viable sperm if a man experiences issues with low sperm count (azoospermia). This is the same process that sperm banks use to keep genetic material viable.

  • Gonadal Shielding – As with women, this process protects the reproductive organs from radiation exposure during cancer treatment.

When Should I Consider Fertility Preservation?

The best time to consider fertility preservation is typically soon after your cancer diagnosis and before starting cancer treatment. By initiating conversations about these matters with your doctor and a fertility expert, you will be able to determine the ideal option given your situation. This also allows you to talk over matters with your partner or significant other if you had been plans to start a family at a later date.

Schedule a Consultation at The Center for Fertility and Gynecology

To learn more about fertility preservation and whether or not it's the right option for you, be sure to contact our team of fertility specialists today. The team at The Center for Fertility and Gynecology will help you make the right choices about your fertility options.

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