Women diagnosed with cancer often face an unknown fertility future. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation may target a woman’s eggs, leaving her infertile.
Fortunately, over the past 50 years, progress in the field of reproductive medicine has produced fertility-preservation options for women undergoing cancer treatment.
Below is a summary of current female fertility-preservation techniques:
Embryo cryopreservation. This technique involves extracting eggs from the patient, typically by inducing ovulation. The eggs then undergo in vitro fertilization to generate viable embryos. The embryos can later be implanted when the woman is ready to conceive. This is the most common and successful technique.
Ovarian transposition. For women receiving radiation localized to the abdomen or groin, this technique may be beneficial. It involves moving the ovaries or shielding them from the target area of radiation. About 50% of women regain menstruation following this procedure. It will not prevent the infertility effects of chemotherapy.
Radical trachelectomy. This option results in complete removal of the cervix in cervical cancer patients with small, localized tumors. Though pregnancy is possible following this procedure, patients are at a higher risk for miscarriage and premature birth due to alterations in the uterus.
Fertility-sparing surgical procedure. For patients with less aggressive forms of ovarian cancer, surgeons may opt to remove only the affected ovary, thus leaving the patient with one functioning ovary.