Fertility Preservation Highlighted on International Cancer Survivors Day
The first Sunday in June is observed around the world as International Cancer Survivors Day, a day of celebration for cancer survivors and their families and friends, as well as an opportunity to raise awareness of cancer and how it affects the lives of survivors and their families.
Cancer certainly takes a great deal even from survivors, and among the devastating losses suffered by many cancer survivors is the possibility of becoming infertile, either due to the type of cancer itself, or its treatment. This International Cancer Survivors Day, Medfem Fertility Clinic shares crucial information regarding the fertility preservation options available to cancer patients.
International Cancer Survivors Day celebrates hope and life for cancer survivors and their families, while also raising awareness of cancer and how it affects the lives of survivors and their families.
A survivor is anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer and survived, but even survivors have lasting effects on their lives left by the cancer, and this can affect them and their family in numerous ways.
Globally, there were an estimated 20 million new cases of cancer and 10 million deaths from cancer in 2020. The cancer burden is expected to increase by approximately 60% over the next two decades to about 30 million new cancer cases in 2040.
In South Africa alone, one out of four people will be affected by cancer in their lifetime, according to the country’s Department of Health. In addition, here too is a concerning increase in the number of people diagnosed with cancer, which translates into growing numbers of people living with many kinds of cancer-related consequences – not least of which is infertility.
Certainly one of the most devastating consequences of many types of cancer, as well as cancer treatments is the loss of the ability to have your own biological children. To ensure that all cancer patients have access to fertility preservation options available today, our team at Medfem would like to this crucial information on this International Cancer Survivors Day.
The impact of cancer and cancer treatments on fertility
Sadly, certain cancers – especially reproductive cancers – as well as cancer therapy can destroy a person’s fertility and their chances of having a family.
Reproductive cancers start in the organs related to reproduction (sex) in the pelvis – the area in the lower belly between the hip bones. There are several reproductive cancers that occur in women, including cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, vaginal cancer and vulvar cancer. Different types of reproductive cancers also occur in men, most commonly, testicular cancer, penile cancer and prostate cancer.
In addition, cancer treatments- whether for reproductive cancers or any other type of cancer – can also result in infertility. These treatments include chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Depending on the location of the cancer, surgeons may need to remove some or all reproductive organs, even if the cancer does not directly involve these organs. For example, in the treatment of colon cancer, the surgeon may need to remove the uterus or one or both ovaries.
Male fertility can be harmed by the surgical removal of the testicles or by chemotherapy or radiation that damages sperm quantity, quality or DNA, and can cause azoospermia.
For women, cancer treatments can result in immediate infertility, premature menopause, and cervical or uterine damage. Chemotherapy and radiation can cause permanent damage to – or destroy – eggs and follicles, which can lead to menopause for years after treatment. Other treatments such as surgery to remove the ovaries, fallopian tubes or uterus can drastically impair the ability to become pregnant or carry a baby.
Your risk of being infertile after cancer treatment depends on your age, your pre-treatment fertility status, and the type of treatment you are undergoing. Your oncologist will be able to give you an estimate of the likelihood that your treatment will decrease your fertility.
Fertility preservation options
If cancer patients have the opportunity before their cancer treatment commences, they may be able to preserve their fertility through egg, sperm, embryo or even tissue freezing. It is strongly recommended that sperm, eggs or tissue are collected prior to initiation of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation, because the quality of the eggs, sperm or tissue DNA integrity may be compromised even after a single cancer treatment session.
Fertility preservation is a much more realistic option today thanks to a revolutionary technology called vitrification. This is a new preservation technique that freezes at a very fast rate, significantly improving success rates.
For men, sperm freezing and storing is a very effective method of preserving fertility, because sperm can be frozen indefinitely. When the sperm is thawed in future, it can be placed in the female partner’s uterus through processes such as intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
For women, fertility preservation includes freezing a woman’s eggs, her embryos, or, potentially, her ovarian tissue.
Egg freezing allows women to freeze and store their eggs until a pregnancy is desired, at which time the eggs are thawed, fertilised and transferred to the uterus as embryos. It involves a process including various tests to determine the current egg reserve and to predict the egg yield from an egg freezing cycle, as well as fertility medications designed to allow the ovaries to begin the growth of the eggs that will be frozen. Once matured, the eggs are collected during a relatively pain-free procedure under a light sedative, and are then cryopreserved and stored a liquid nitrogen chamber until required.
Embryo freezing is also an option to consider. An embryo is an egg that has been fertilised by a sperm. Embryo freezing allows for the storage of embryos for an indefinite amount of time. At a future time, a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) can be performed in a simple, short procedure.
Where to find the best fertility preservation options
At Medfem Fertility Clinic, we have years of experience in cryopreservation or egg, sperm and embryo freezing. This means that we are able to provide you with an expert medical opinion about your current and future reproductive potential, your eligibility for fertility preservation, and a comprehensive consultation to review all of your options and answer your questions about fertility preservation.
Given the urgency of fertility preservation following a cancer diagnosis, we try to see all urgent cancer-related cases within 24 hours of having received a referral from your physician.
If you or someone you know has been recently diagnosed with cancer, or is facing a medical treatment such as chemotherapy, radiation or surgery that may affect fertility, we invite you to speak to one of our fertility specialists at Medfem Fertility Clinic.
Medfem Fertility Clinic’s team are committed and understanding team of medical professionals, who have the experience, knowledge and desire to provide you with the best chance of preserving your fertility so you may still be able to have your own biological children after cancer treatment.
If you would like to meet one of our fertility specialists, simply click here to book an initial consultation or contact us telephonically on +27 (11) 463 2244.
Our Fertility Specialists can also meet with You During a Virtual Consultation Via Zoom or Skype. Click here to book a virtual consultation now.
We look forward to meeting you!