Cancer has become a wide-spread disease, affecting a large section of the youth as well. However, over the last few decades there has been tremendous improvement in cure rates after cancer treatment.
Fertility of patients, undergoing cancer treatment, at or before reproductive age, gets compromised in all cases. So, diagnosis of cancer is very intimidating to any person who is young and childless. In case of a woman diagnosed with cancer, the disease is usually associated with diminished fertility potential. This adds to the distress of the patient and her entire family. Recent advances in treatment and supportive care have increased survival rates in such patients but with high risk complications, one of them being infertility.
Chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy can severely damage the epithelium of the ovary. Unlike men, women have only a finite number of eggs in their ovaries which mature one by one every month. With age, this reserve of eggs diminishes and cancer therapy further speeds up this process. These therapies can cause ovarian damage that can lead to:
• Genetic damage to oocytes (eggs)
• Ovarian failure
• Early menopause
• Premature Ovarian Failure (POF)
• Other reproductive problems.
Fertility preservation strategies are the only hope for parenthood in future for cancer survivors. Best IVF centres in Chandigarh counsel cancer patients about fertility preservation strategies as early as possible before treatment starts.
Fertility Preservation Options:
Treatment choice for a female’s fertility preservation/protection would depend on factors such as:
• patient’s age
• ovarian reserve
• cancer type
• cancer therapy dose & duration, etc
Treatment options available are:–
1. Embryo Cryopreservation – Fertilization of female’s oocytes through IVF or ICSI and then freezing the resultant embryos through vitrification.
2. Cryopreservation of Unfertilized Oocytes – May be employed if the cancer patient is unmarried, or have religious/ethical objections to embryo freezing.
3. Ovarian Transposition – To physically move the ovaries out of the pelvis through surgical techniques.
4. Ovarian Suppression – using hormones to decrease toxic effects of chemo/radio therapy on ovaries.
5. Ovarian Tissue Cryopreservation & Transplantation – most suitable for girls who haven’t attained puberty, women with ovarian cysts and endometriosis.
Fertility preservation methods are still applied infrequently as many methods are still at experimental stage or can be performed only at registered centers.