At The Fertility Institute, we understand a diagnosis of cancer can be overwhelming, and we want to help patients consider all of their options regarding fertility preservation before beginning cancer treatments, such as radiation or chemotherapy.

Oncofertility refers to assisted reproductive technologies to preserve fertility before cancer treatment. We know time is of the essence with cancer treatment. We expedite the treatment process and offer priority appointments for patients pursuing oncofertility services. Our doctors are here to listen, inform, and help you make these critical fertility decisions so you can focus on the most important thing: your health.

How Does Cancer Treatment Affect Fertility?

Everyone’s cancer treatments look a little bit different. The likelihood that cancer treatment will harm fertility depends on several factors, including the type of cancer, type of cancer treatment, and your age at the time of treatment. The effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy on fertility also depend on the type of drug or the size and location of the radiation field.

Radiation causes the most damage to fertility when applied to the ovaries or testicles. Chemotherapy drugs called alkylating agents are the most harmful to fertility. Cancer treatments can harm fertility in the following ways:

  • Radiation or chemotherapy drugs can damage:
    • Hormone levels critical for reproduction
    • Egg and sperm quality
    • The uterus and the cervix
  • For women, treatment may also cause ovarian damage, leading to ovarian failure, early menopause, and other reproductive problems.
  • For men, treatments can likewise damage the testes, interfering with sperm production.
  • Some treatments may also remove organs vital to conception (the uterus, ovaries, or testicles), ending fertility.

Since every patient is different, there is no way to predict for certain whether cancer treatments will cause infertility. Our specialists will work with a patient and their oncologist to determine the best treatment options that may be available for preserving their fertility during cancer treatment.

Oncofertility Options for Those With Cancer

Fertility preservation options differ for men, women, and children, as outlined below.

How Can Women Preserve Fertility Before Cancer Treatment?

There are several fertility preservation methods available for women who want to have children someday:

  • Embryo freezing involves extracting a woman’s eggs, which are then fertilized through in vitro fertilization (IVF) with sperm to create embryos. If successful, the resulting embryo is cryopreserved until you are ready to use it. The embryo freezing process may delay the start of cancer treatments by a few weeks. Our specialists help expedite your care and work with your oncologist to determine if you are able to delay cancer treatment for this process. However, research suggests that this method for fertility preservation has the highest success rate.
  • Egg freezing involves extracting a woman’s eggs and then freezing the unfertilized eggs for future use with fertility treatments.
  • Gonadal or radiation shielding places small lead guards in a woman’s pelvic area to protect reproductive organs and reduce radiation exposure. This technique is not effective with chemotherapy or other cancer therapies.
  • Ovarian transposition is a method that surgically repositions the ovaries as far away from the radiation field as possible. This procedure is performed when radiation is used on the pelvis without chemotherapy, and it is a common option for girls either before or after puberty.
  • A Radical trachelectomy can be performed if a woman has early-stage cervical cancer. This procedure, surgically removing the cervix, can help preserve fertility.
  • Ovarian tissue cryopreservation is a procedure for girls prior to puberty or those who haven’t yet ovulated. A surgeon removes the ovarian tissue and freezes it. After the patient’s return to health, the tissue can be thawed and placed near the fallopian tube in hopes it produces eggs.

A fertility assessment and consultation can help you and your fertility specialist determine which option may be right for you.

How Can Men Preserve Fertility Before Cancer Treatment?

Men interested in preserving their fertility before cancer treatments have a few options, including:

  • Sperm banking: A process that involves collecting, freezing, and storing sperm. When you’re ready to start a family, the sperm can then be thawed and used with intrauterine insemination (IUI) or IVF.
  • Gonadal shielding: During radiation treatments, carefully placed shields cover the man’s testicles to reduce radiation exposure.
  • Sperm aspiration: An option for young boys who have yet to reach puberty. During this procedure, immature sperm cells are surgically removed, then frozen and stored for future use.
  • Testicular tissue freezing: An experimental procedure for prepubescent boys in which sperm is preserved by freezing testicular cells. These cells can later be thawed to retrieve sperm for use in IVF.

Your fertility specialist can recommend which option may be best depending on your age, future family goals, and health conditions.

Livestrong Oncofertility Partner

The Fertility Institute of New Orleans is proud to partner with the Livestrong organization. Livestrong Fertility offers access to free medications and discounted fertility preservation services, so cancer survivors have an opportunity to build their families.

Livestrong Resources

Discuss Your Oncofertility Options With a Fertility Specialist

If you want to explore your fertility options prior to cancer treatments, the fertility specialists at The Fertility Institute can help. We work closely with oncologists to help you understand the risks of cancer treatment to your fertility and which oncofertility options may help you grow your family in the future.

With our specialists, you can expect to have your care expedited through collaboration with your oncologist and priority appointments, so fertility treatments do not delay cancer treatment.

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