Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

What are the effects of cancer on fertility?


Cryogenics: Sperm and Embryo Storage

It's difficult for a person to look down the road of life when the focus is on taking one step at a time. But it's possible to do both successfully, particularly with the help of an informed physician. Cancer can render a patient infertile but still capable of having a baby that is related to him or her genetically. Sperm and embryo storage is, at this point, the best and most popular option.

During this common process, a sample of a man's semen is taken prior to his undergoing cancer treatments. The sperm can be safely stored for years and then used for insemination, in vitro fertilization or intra-cytoplasmic injection. Women have a more problematic, though viable, option. If there is enough time available before cancer treatments begin, a woman can undergo in vitro fertilization.

Naturally, a woman who is not in a relationship with a man she wants to have children with is faced with the unavailability of sperm. If sperm is available and an embryo is successfully created, it can then be stored for a lengthy period of time and used in reimplanatation once the cancer has been treated. But, cryogenics for men and women are expensive. In the case of a woman, it can also stall the process of fighting the disease [source: American Society for Reproductive Medicine].

The rate of survival in youthful individuals with cancer is rising [source: The New England Journal of Medicine]. With that in mind, an increasing number of doctors and their patients are exploring options to preserve fertility and the promise of family life at a later date. Some of these options are now common while others are still under investigation. A thorough discussion of fertility and the threats to reproduction caused by cancer treatments is an important part of the doctor/patient relationship in such challenging situations.


More to Explore