04 February 2015

Each year, millions of men and women under the age of 40 are diagnosed with cancer. While most of these cancer patients face excellent prospects for survival, one of the very unfortunate side effects of treatment is permanent infertility. Fortunately advances in both fertility preservation and infertility treatments are occurring at a rapid rate presenting viable options for cancer patients.

Female Fertility Preservation
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, both common cancer treatments, 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.
The most proven and successful method of fertility preservation for women is embryo freezing. This involves undergoing IVF, retrieving as many viable eggs as possible, fertilising the eggs in a laboratory, followed by vitrification freezing.
Patients who are single or do not have a male partner to provide sperm for the creation of embryos can consider egg freezing.
Patients who do not have time for ovarian stimulation can consider experimental options such as ovarian tissue freezing which involves the removal, sectioning and freezing of ovarian tissue. These ovarian tissues can later be transplanted to restore hormonal function and for use with IVF.

Male Fertility Preservation
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. Sperm cryopreservation (freezing) is a highly effective technique to preserve male fertility. It is strongly recommended that sperm are collected prior to initiation of treatment because the quality of the sample and sperm DNA integrity may be compromised even after a single treatment session. Although planned chemotherapy may limit the number of ejaculates, intracytoplasmic sperm injection allows the successful freezing and future use of a very limited amount of sperm.
A diagnosis of cancer is devastating and making early parenthood decisions at such a time can be very difficult. It is however imperative to perform egg/sperm freezing prior to any chemotherapy or radiation treatment as potential damage can lead to infertility in both males and females. Cancer therapy can destroy a person’s fertility and their chances of having a family. Your risk of being infertile after cancer treatment depends on the type of treatment, your pre-treatment fertility status, and your age. Your oncologist can give you an estimate of the likelihood that your treatment will decrease your fertility.

What You Can Do

Medfem Fertility Clinic is keeping hope alive by offering the opportunity to freeze eggs and sperm before treatment. If you are facing a medical treatment such as chemotherapy, radiation or surgery that may affect your fertility, we may be able to help you. In these circumstances, we often need to take action prior to the medical treatment. Therefore, we try to see all urgent cases within 24 hours of having received a referral from your physician.

If you or someone you know has been recently diagnosed with cancer that can impact their future fertility, call our offices immediately at +27 (11) 463 2244 to schedule a consultation.

“No one should be deprived of the joyous experience of parenthood because they didn’t get available information on fertility preservation at such a critical time.”
Dr Tony Rodrigues, Medfem Fertility Clinic


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