Now, more than ever, patients who undergo lifesaving cancer treatment don’t have to give up their hope of having a baby. Fertility-threatening cancer treatments are not nearly as ominous as they were just a few short years ago. Many cancer therapies do have side effects such as fertility loss and early menopause, however important advancements in reproductive technology have enabled physicians to preserve their patients’fertility.
Mark Johnson, physician at Arizona Associates of Reproductive Health in Scottsdale, AZ, discusses various options to preserve fertility after an ovarian cancer diagnosis.
Each Case is Unique
There is no single right approach to preserving a patient’s fertility. Each patient considers various factors as they make decisions about care:
· Specific type of cancer therapy
· Time available for fertility preservation before starting cancer therapy
· Personal preferences regarding how to go about fertility preservation
At Arizona Associates of Reproductive Health, we understand that decisions regarding ovarian cancer treatment often have to be made very quickly under stressful circumstances. We’re committed to seeing patients as soon as possible (often with minimal or no wait time) and presenting all available options so they can feel as comfortable as possible with their treatment plan.
Pre-Cancer Therapy Options
IVF & Embryo Banking
There are many good options to consider prior to a patient’s cancer therapy. If you can safely postpone treatment for 2-6 weeks you may want to consider IVF (In Vitro Fertilization)
and embryo banking. With these procedures, the ovaries are stimulated to produce multiple eggs, the eggs are combined with
sperm in the lab and the resulting embryos are frozen. This all occurs over a 2-6 week period. Once cancer treatment and recovery are completed, the embryos are implanted.
The egg banking process is similar to embryo banking in that the ovaries are stimulated to produce several eggs. However, in egg banking for fertility preservation, the eggs are retrieved from the ovaries and frozen. They are fertilized at a later date and the embryos that result are implanted after cancer treatment and recovery are completed.
One of the most significant advances in reproductive technology in recent years is a cryopreservation technique called vitrification. We have seen an improvement in egg survival after freezing, fertilization and subsequent pregnancy rates using this excellent technique.
Ovarian Tissue Banking
Patients who can’t, or don’t wish to, delay cancer treatment often turn to ovarian tissue banking. During this procedure, laparoscopy is used to remove one ovary. The cortex (outer surface) of the ovary, which houses the eggs, is frozen for later use. Depending upon the specific type of cancer, patients may be
able to have pieces of the tissue thawed and transplanted back. This technique has resulted in a number of pregnancies. However, some types of cancer (e.g. leukemia) preclude transplant, it would be unsafe due to the risk of re-seeding the original cancer. Although experimental, ovarian tissue banking may be the best option for women who can’t delay their cancer treatment and must act quickly.
If you’d like more information about ovarian tissue banking for fertility preservation, or any of the techniques discussed here, please contact Mark Johnson, MD of Arizona Associates of Reproductive Health.
Fertility Sparing Surgery
Fertility sparing surgery may be an option for women who will undergo abdominal or pelvic irradiation, or women with early stage cervical cancer. There are many options available depending upon the specific circumstances. Using a technique called ovarian transposition, the ovaries can be surgically relocated away from the radiation field. It may be possible for a gynecologic oncologist to preserve the reproductive organs during cancer surgery for patients who have been diagnosed with early stage cervical or ovarian cancer.
Want to learn more about how fertility can be preserved after an ovarian cancer diagnosis? Arizona Associates of Reproductive Health can help. To schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, visit Request An Appointment or call (480) 946-9900.