Cancer and Fertility Information for Women*
* Information courtesy of Dr. Karine Chung, MD, MSCE of USC Fertility
How Cancer Treatments Can Affect A Woman's Fertility
All women are born with a limited number of eggs. Over time, there is a natural decline in the number of remaining eggs until a woman reaches menopause. Many cancer treatments can potentially reduce a woman's supply of eggs which may in certain scenarios lead to premature menopause. Women receiving higher doses and certain types of chemotherapy, those who are 35 or older at the time of treatment and possibly those with Hodgkin's disease are particularly at risk.
How to Preserve Your Fertility Before Treatment:
Thanks to significant advances in reproductive medicine, there are technologies now available that can help to preserve fertility prior to undergoing cancer treatment.
Option: Egg (Oocyte) Freezing
Egg freezing offers one option to preserve fertility prior to commencing cancer treatment therapies. Through ovarian stimulation using the same process that is used for in vitro fertilization (IVF), multiple eggs can be harvested and frozen for future use. This option is commonly used, but is currently still considered investigational.
Option: Embryo Freezing
The standard practice for women faced with fertility-compromising therapies is to retrieve eggs, fertilize them through IVF with sperm and freeze embryos. Frozen embryos yield acceptable pregnancy rates and are a common part of IVF practice. For women without a partner, donor sperm may be used to create the embryos.
Option: In Vitro Maturation
Another option is to harvest immature eggs from the ovary without hormonal stimulation, or with limited stimulation and then grow the eggs in the laboratory until they mature, a process called in-vitro maturation. This option is still preliminary in nature.