Medfem Spotlights Fertility Preservation on World Cancer Day
World Cancer Day is observed around the world in February, and each year our team at Medfem add our voices to raise awareness of the impact of cancer and cancer treatments on men’s and women’s fertility – and particularly to spotlight the fertility preservation options that are available for those who are facing treatment for cancer.
In this article, we look at how cancer and cancer treatments can affect fertility and how advanced technology allows cancer patients to preserve their fertility before receiving cancer treatment, so there is still a possibility of having their own biological children in the future.
An initiative of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), #WorldCancerDay is the uniting global effort under which the world comes together to raise awareness of cancer in a positive way. It has been observed in February for 23 years, with the aim to raise awareness, promote research, prevent cancer, improve patient services, and mobilise the global community. You can find out more at worldcancerday.org.
Raising awareness of cancer is crucial, given that a staggering 10 million people die from cancer every year! The 10 most common cancer types account for more than 70% of the cancer deaths. Female breast cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer worldwide, followed by lung cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, and stomach cancer.
These cancer deaths occur despite the fact that as many as 30% of common cancers can be prevented and another 30% can be cured if detected early and treated properly.
Thanks to advances in medical science, many cancer patients have fair prospects for survival, with common cancer treatments including chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Sadly, for all cancer patients, there is a risk of infertility as a result of the cancer itself or the treatments thereof.
How cancer affects fertility
Cancer and its treatment take a great deal from people, and for some, this also includes their fertility and the ability to have their own biological children.
Reproductive cancers affect both men and women, and can have a significant negative impact on fertility.
However, any type of cancer and the resulting treatments are likely to contribute to affect fertility and even cause infertility.
How reproductive cancers affects fertility
Reproductive cancers start in the organs related to reproduction (sex). These organs are 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. The most common cancer is breast cancer, which is sometimes also considered to be a reproductive cancer.
Cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix, the lower end of the uterus. Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women in over 40 countries. Nearly 600,000 cervical cancer cases are diagnosed each year and more than 300,000 women die from cervical cancer annually, despite the fact that cervical cancer one of the most highly preventable and curable forms of cancer.
Ovarian cancer is a disease that’s often overlooked, misunderstood or misdiagnosed. Raising awareness among women is therefore crucial, because the earlier a woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, the better her chance of survival. This is also true for uterine cancer, which is cancer in the uterus or womb, vaginal cancer in the vagina, and vulvar cancer – cancer of the vulva, the area around the opening of the vagina.
Different types of reproductive cancers also occur in men, most commonly, testicular cancer, penile cancer and prostate cancer.
How cancer treatments affect fertility
The treatment of any type of cancer can also affect fertility. These treatments include chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
Cancer treatments on women pose a variety of reproductive risks including immediate infertility, premature menopause, and a compromised ability to carry a pregnancy to term due to cervical or uterine damage.
Chemotherapy and radiation can cause permanent damage or destroy oocytes and follicles. This 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.
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.
You can preserve your fertility
Fortunately, thanks to advances in medical science, if cancer treatments are needed, men and women can preserve their fertility before treatment commences, by freezing their eggs, sperm, embryos or tissue. This will provide a possibility to conceive after the cancer treatment through IVF or other assisted reproduction techniques.
Egg freezing and storage is a realistic option today, thanks to a revolutionary technology called vitrification that is a new freezing technique. Vitrification freezes the eggs at a very fast rate, so that the eggs are preserved without the formation of damaging ice crystals.
At Medfem Fertility Clinic, we have years of experience in egg cryopreservation. This means that we are able to provide you with an expert medical opinion about your current and future reproductive potential as well as your eligibility for egg freezing.
The most proven and successful method of fertility preservation for women is embryo freezing – or embryo cryopreservation as it is also called. An embryo is an egg that has been fertilised by a sperm. At Medfem Fertility Clinic, we also use the modern freezing technology of vitrification to freeze embryos for later use. At a future time, a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) can be performed in a simple, short procedure.
Sperm can also be frozen indefinitely, making sperm freezing and storing an effective method of preserving fertility for men. In the future, the sperm – once thawed – can be placed in a female partner’s uterus using processes such as intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
In cases where there is no sperm, a testicular sperm extraction (TESE) can be offered as an alternative.
Has cancer affected your fertility?
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.
We have years of experience in preserving fertility for cancer patients through freezing or cryopreservation, and our team is able to provide you with an expert medical opinion about your current and future reproductive potential as well as your eligibility for egg, sperm, embryo or tissue freezing. We are also happy to 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.
At Medfem we believe in helping you reach your family dream through:
* World-Class Fertility for Everyone – we believe in making world-class fertility treatments available for everyone
* A Positive Fertility Journey – It is our joy and commitment to give you a positive outcome to your fertility journey
* Delivered With Empathy & Caring – So you may have a fond memory, of a feeling of empathy, caring and being part of the Medfem family
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 at Medfem Fertility Clinic!