Fertility, or being able to be pregnant with your own biologic children, may not seem important if you are facing cancer treatment. But it may become an important quality of life issue in the future. Many cancers now, and hopefully, many more cancers in the future, may be cured. This results in longer lives for cancer survivors.
Sometimes cancer treatment causes great damage to a man’s ability to make sperm. Cancer treatment can also greatly damage a woman’s oocytes (eggs). For some patients though, fertility can be preserved prior to, or sometimes during, treatment. The specialists at the Washington University Infertility and Reproductive Medicine Center will work with your oncologist to help you understand the options that are available to you.
The first step is to call and make an appointment with one of our specialists at 314-286-2400.
Male Fertility Preservation
We offer cryopreservation (freezing) of sperm for male patients. Sperm is obtained by ejaculation or, in rare cases, with a minor operation. The sperm is then cryopreserved (frozen) and saved for later use. Once frozen, sperm may be preserved for many, many, years.
Female Fertility Preservation
Our Center offers a number of options for female patients.
This is a successful and well-studied choice for fertility preservation. It requires both oocytes (eggs) and sperm to create embryos. Oocytes are removed from the woman during a minor procedure, after hormone stimulation. The eggs are fertilized with sperm and the resulting embryos are frozen. Once cancer treatment is over and the woman is ready to try to get pregnant, an embryo is put in the uterus (womb). If the woman does not have a partner, she can choose to use donor sperm to create an embryo.
Oocyte (Egg) Banking
A woman can choose to have unfertilized eggs preserved. The eggs can be removed and frozen in the same way as above. This process is still under study, but is gaining more success and is used worldwide.
Ovarian Tissue Banking
This procedure is also under study. Surgery, often laparoscopic, is used to remove (usually) one ovary. All or part of the ovary is then processed and frozen for future use.