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Preserving Fertility in Women With Cancer

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Breast cancer and cervical cancer are the most common cancer types. As per statistics,it accounts for about 27% of all cancers in women. Due to the tremendous rise in risk of cancer, it becomes essential to opt for preserving fertility. Though after cancer treatment, a woman’s body may recover naturally and produce mature eggs that can be fertilized. The medical team may recommend waiting for 6 months to about 2 years before trying to get pregnant.The length of time however depends on the type of cancer and the treatment used.

Fertility Preservation Options

Egg freezing

Egg freezing is a well known method of preserving fertility in women. It might be a good choice for women who do not have a partner. For egg freezing, mature eggs are removed and frozen.Once the woman is ready to become pregnant the eggs can be thawed, fertilized, and implanted in her uterus.

As per a research,there is no evidence to show that there may be cancer recurrence in women with breast cancer, who go through a hormone cycle to freeze eggs or embryos. Recent recommendations suggest good evidence that it is safe.

A new method of freezing called vitrification has made egg freezing more efficient and successful. Another alternative could be to freeze half the eggs and fertilize the rest with sperm from a donor and then freeze embryos.

Embryo freezing

This is the most established and successful method of preserving a woman’s fertility . Mature eggs are removed from a woman’s ovaries and fertilized in the lab. This is called in- vitro fertilization (IVF).

Thousands of sperm are put in a sterile dish with each egg. Sometimes one sperm is injected into each egg .The embryos are then frozen to be used after cancer treatment.A woman will have a better chance of a successful pregnancy if several embryos are stored.

“For women who are less than 35, a single embryo transfer is the safest way of using IVF to get pregnant so as to avoid multiple pregnancy”, says Dr. Priti Gupta Fertility & IVF Expert, First Step IVF Clinic, New Delhi.

Ovarian tissue freezing

This process involves removal of all or part of one ovary by laparoscopy .The ovarian tissue is usually cut into small strips, frozen, and stored. Ovarian tissue freezing lets women freeze a vastly larger number of immature eggs for future use. When frozen ovarian tissue is re-implanted into the body and regains its functions, immature frozen eggs within the tissue start developing normally.

Post cancer treatment, the ovarian tissue is placed in the pelvis. Once the transplanted tissue starts to function again, the eggs can be collected and fertilized . The ovarian tissue does takes blood supply and she is to produce hormones after it’s transplanted. While, some of the tissue usually dies and it may only last for a few months to several years.

For women who are not fertile after cancer treatment

Donor egg is an option for women who have a healthy uterus but do not have any eggs . Egg donation is often a successful treatment for women who can no longer produce healthy eggs.

Also,any woman who has a healthy uterus can maintain a pregnancy by the utilizing the donor embryos.

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