With a diagnosis of cancer comes a wide range of emotions, as well as many important decisions and questions. Typically, your main focus is to explore your treatment options such as radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery. One area that you may not think about, however, is fertility preservation. Many types of chemotherapy and radiation will save your life but may unfortunately also leave you infertile. For men and women who want to have children one day, this can be devastating.
Here are a few things you should know about fertility preservation before you begin cancer treatment:
1. Your oncologist may not bring up fertility preservation.
When it comes to fertility preservation and cancer treatment, there is no standard protocol for discussing this issue. Don’t wait for your oncologist to bring it up. If you want to preserve your fertility, the onus may be on you to start this conversation during your initial treatment consultation. Be sure to talk about your options before you begin a course of treatment, as your fertility can be damaged by just one treatment session.
2. Different cancer treatments have different effects on fertility.
The most common treatments for cancer are chemotherapy and radiation–both affect sperm production for men and egg health for women. In some cases, the treatments can leave you permanently infertile. In others, fertility will return after a period of time once treatment has ended. When facing surgery, including the removal of the testicles or ovaries and/or uterus, you will be infertile after treatment.
3. Several factors determine the effect of cancer treatment on your reproductive system.
How cancer treatment affects your fertility will depend on a variety of factors, such as:
- The type of chemotherapy ordered and what drugs are used in the cycle
- The location of the radiation therapy and its intensity (dose)
- Your age at the time of treatment, as older patients have a higher risk for infertility
- The state of your fertility before beginning treatment
- Where the surgery is ordered and what is involved in the procedure
4.You have options for preserving your fertility.
No matter what type of cancer treatment your doctor recommends, there are options for preserving your fertility.
Fertility Preservation Options for Women/Girls:
- IVF / Embryo Freezing
- Egg Freezing
- Ovarian Tissue Freezing
- GnRH Agonist
Fertility Preservation Options for Men/Boys:
- Sperm Cryopreservation
- Testicular Tissue Freezing
- Testicular Shielding
- Testicular Sperm Extraction (TESE)
Interested in learning more about preserving your fertility prior to cancer treatment? Contact The Fertility Preservation Program in Pittsburgh today.