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.

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Sources

  • American Society for Reproductive Medicine. "Cancer and Fertility Preservation." January 2004. (June 24, 2012) http://www.sart.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/Resources/Patient_Resources/Fact_Sheets_and_Info_Booklets/cancer.pdf
  • Cancer.Net. "Fertility and Cancer Treatment." (June 24, 2012) http://www.cancer.net/patient/Coping/Emotional+and+Physical+Matters/Sexual+and+Reproductive+Health/Fertility+and+Cancer+Treatment
  • Dawson, Chris. "Male Fertility Problems." Netdoctor. (June 24, 2012) http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/menshealth/facts/malefertility.htm
  • ESMO Guidelines Working Group. "Cancer, Fertility and Pregnancy." Annals of Oncology. 2010. (June 24, 2012) http://annonc.oxfordjournals.org/content/21/suppl_5/v266.short
  • FertilityProRegistry.com. "Causes of Infertility: Cancer and Its Treatments." (June 24, 2012) http://www.fertilityproregistry.com/article/causes-of-infertility-cancer-and-its-treatment.html
  • Jeruss, Jacqueline S., MD., Ph.D., Teresa K. Woodruff, PhD. "Preservation of Fertility in Patients With Cancer." Feb. 26, 2009. (June 24, 2012) The New England Journal of Medicine. Feb. 26, 2009. (June 24, 2012) http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmra0801454
  • National Cancer Institute. "Preserving Fertility While Battling Cancer." Jan. 11, 2011. (June 24, 2012) http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/research/preserving-fertility-while-battling-cancer
  • Lee, Stephanie J., Leslie R. Schover, Ann H. Partridge, Pasquale Patrizio, W. Hammish Wallace, Karen Hagerty, Lindsay N. Beck, Lawrence V. Brennan, and Kutluk Oktay. "American Society of Clinical Oncology Recommendations on Fertility Preservation in Cancer Patients." Dec. 20, 2006. (June 24, 2012) http://jco.ascopubs.org/content/24/18/2917.short

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