Fertility Options

Each patient is unique. The impact of a given treatment on fertility can vary and so can the time available before starting life saving treatments. Patient age, marital status, personal wishes, religious and cultural constraints and prognosis may all affect decision making. Fertility preservation treatments must be tailored to the individual circumstances and integrated with the treatment regimen. Close coordination between the treating physician and the reproductive endocrinologist is the key to preserving family-building options for your patients.

For more information, read the following options for women, men, and children or call the Oncofertility Consortium's Patient Navigator for Fertility Preservation, Kristin Smith, at 866-708-FERT (3378).

                                                            

Women:
Embryo banking

During this process, a woman’s ovaries are first stimulated to mature multiple eggs, which are then removed and fertilized through in vitro fertilization (IVF) with sperm to create embryos.  The embryos are then frozen for future use. The entire process can take up to one month. Watch an animation about embryo banking.

Egg banking

This is a new technology that is starting to show good results and, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, is no longer considered experimental.  This process is exactly the same as described for embryo banking except that the eggs are NOT fertilized before freezing. This is a good option for single women who do not have a male partner and do not want to use donor sperm. The entire process can take up to one month. Read more information about egg banking.

Ovarian tissue banking

One entire ovary is removed surgically and the outer surface (cortex) which contains the eggs is frozen in strips for later use. Women who are survivors of some types of cancer can have pieces of the tissue thawed and transplanted back. A number of pregnancies have resulted from using this technique. Transplant is not safe following some types of cancer (e.g. leukemia) because of the risk of re-seeding the original cancer. The Oncofertility Consortium® is actively researching new ways to use this tissue. New techniques are still experimental but may be the best option for woman who must start their treatments immediately. Read more about ovarian tissue banking and watch an animation.

Ovarian transposition

Surgeons can move the ovaries away from the area receiving radiation therapy.  The goal of the surgery is to move the ovaries within the pelvis where they can still function, but will be out of the way of harmful radiation. This technique will not protect against the effects of chemotherapy.

The procedures listed above have varying risks and side effects.  Some options may not be recommended for certain types of cancer or disease.  There may also be treatments available that have a smaller risk of infertility.  It is important to discuss these procedures with your physician and your insurance provider since they may be expensive and not covered by insurance.

SaveMyFertility.org

Learn more about the fertility and hormonal risks of cancer and treatment options for women at SaveMyFertility.org and download a free iPhone app on cancer and fertility.

Men:
Sperm banking

Sperm cells are collected and frozen for future use. Read more information about sperm banking.

Testicular tissue banking

Testicular tissue, including cells that produce sperm and sperm itself, is removed and frozen.

The procedures listed above have varying risks and side effects.  Some options may not be recommended for certain types of cancer or disease.  There may also be treatments available that have a smaller risk of infertility.  It is important to discuss these procedures with your physician and your insurance provider since they may be expensive and not covered by insurance.

SaveMyFertility.org

Learn more about the fertility risks of cancer and treatment options for men at SaveMyFertility.org and download a free iPhone app on cancer and fertility.

Children/Adolescents:
Egg banking

Young women are stimulated with fertility drugs to cause them to produce a number of eggs. The eggs are retrieved surgically and frozen for future use. This technique is still considered experimental, takes about a month to complete and requires multiple vaginal ultrasounds and a vaginal egg retrieval. Not all adolescents and their families will be comfortable with this procedure. Learn more about egg banking here and here.

Ovarian tissue freezing

One entire ovary is removed surgically, the outer surface (cortex) which contains the eggs is removed and frozen in strips. Women who are survivors of some types of cancer can have pieces of the tissue thawed and transplanted back. A number of pregnancies have resulted from using this technique. Transplant is not safe following some types of cancer (e.g. leukemia) because of the risk of re-seeding the original cancer. The Oncofertility Consortium® is actively researching new ways to use this tissue. New techniques are still experimental but may be the best option for woman who must start their treatments immediately. Read more about out ovarian tissue freezing and watch an animation.

Sperm banking

Sperm cells are collected and frozen for future use. Read more information about sperm banking. Watch a cancer survivor discuss banking sperm.

Testicular tissue banking

Testicular tissue, including cells that produce sperm and sperm itself, is removed and frozen. Read more information here.

The procedures listed above have varying risks and side effects.  Some options may not be recommended for certain types of cancer or disease.  There may also be treatments available that have a smaller risk of infertility.  It is important to discuss these procedures with your physician and your insurance provider since they may be expensive and not covered by insurance.

SaveMyFertility.org

Learn more about the fertility risks of cancer and treatment options for children at SaveMyFertility.org and download a free iPhone app on cancer and fertility.

Third party reproduction: 
There are other parenthood options that are available to individuals who may not be able to conceive or carry their own biological children.   These include:

Donor eggs, sperm, and embryos 
Eggs, sperm, or embryos provided by a known or anonymous donor. Read more information about donation and donor eggs.

Surrogacy 
Having another woman carry your child. More information about surrogacy is available here. Watch a cancer survivor discuss surrogacy.

Adoption

The Oncofertility Consortium® has compiled a list of adoption agencies that would like to work with cancer survivors.

FERTLINE
The national fertility hotline was designed to provide patients and providers with oncofertility information tailored to each individual case. For immediate fertility preservation counseling, referral to a fertility center near you, and information on the financial and emotional aspects of treatment, call the Oncofertility Consortium's Patient Navigator, Annette Haggan, at 866-708-FERT (3378). 

Supportive Oncology at Northwestern University

The Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center provides emotional and practical support for patients and their families during all stages of treatment and recovery and can connect you with information, resources, and counseling to help you manage the challenges of living with cancer.  Visit the Supportive Care Program for more information.

SaveMyFertility.org

Learn more about the fertility and hormonal risks of cancer and treatment options for men, women, and children at SaveMyFertility.org and download a free iPhone app on cancer and fertility.