Pick of the Month: Fertility Treatment Options for Women With Ovarian Cancer
Cancer and Fertility
Cancer treatment can affect a woman’s fertility in several ways. First, the cancer itself can drastically reduce a woman’s ability to produce eggs. Second, treatment for cancer often impacts a woman’s egg reserves in addition to the cancer cells. Therefore, eggs after treatment are often of a poor quality and unable to be fertilized.
Fertility for Women with Ovarian Cancer
Women with ovarian cancer should consider preserving their fertility prior to starting treatment for cancer. This can be accomplished in two different ways:
- Egg Freezing – An egg freezing cycle may be done prior to starting cancer treatment. To accomplish this, a woman will take fertility drugs that will stimulate her ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Once mature, those eggs can be retrieved and stored until a woman is ready to start a family. Then, the eggs may be used in IVF. This treatment option may not always be available as the process will take two to three weeks. Also, there may be a concern regarding how the medication will affect the cancer.
- Ovarian Tissue Freezing – This method removes and stores ovarian tissue. The outer layer of the ovaries house hundreds of immature eggs. There is no waiting necessary and no need for fertility medication. Once a woman is ready to start a family, the ovarian tissue may be returned to her body where it can function normally. If this is not possible, the stored immature eggs can be matured in a laboratory setting and used during IVF or with a surrogate.