USC Fertility

Fertility Preservation for Cancer

Options for fertility preservation for cancer fighters

Advances in cancer treatment have made it possible for more people to win their battles against cancer, but both the cancer and the life-saving treatments can take a toll on a survivor’s fertility. Fertility preservation for cancer patients offers hope for cancer fighters who want to have a family.

Cancer therapies, including chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, can lead to premature menopause or ovary damage in women, and can compromise sperm production in men. At our Los Angeles oncofertility center, we offer advanced fertility testing and treatment to help men and women preserve their fertility before cancer treatment begins.

Types of fertility preservation for cancer patients

Our Los Angeles oncofertility center offers two proven approaches for female fertility preservation. Both involve IVF, and both take place before cancer treatment begins.

One option for women facing fertility-compromising therapies is to retrieve eggs through IVF, fertilize them with sperm and freeze the resulting embryos. When you’re ready to have a baby, your embryos can be thawed and transferred to your uterus or to a gestational surrogate. This proven approach has been used for decades, and is an excellent choice for women who have a partner or who wish to use a sperm donor.

Another option is IVF with egg freezing, in which multiple eggs may be harvested and frozen, so that fertilization can take place later. After recovery from cancer, your eggs can be thawed, fertilized and transferred to your uterus or to a surrogate. Egg freezing allows women who don’t have a partner to preserve their fertility, without having to use a sperm donor to create embryos.

Because IVF treatment can take two to six weeks, the decision to delay cancer treatment to freeze eggs or embryos must be made in consultation with your oncologist. Our Los Angeles oncofertility specialists can tailor your IVF process and medications to minimize the impact of estrogen that could accelerate the growth of an estrogen-dependent cancer.

For men facing cancer treatment, sperm freezing is an easy and affordable option that can preserve a man’s ability to father a child later in life through intrauterine insemination or IVF. Sperm that have been cryopreserved can be safely stored for decades, and pregnancy can still be achieved even when only a small number of sperm can be saved.

Other methods to preserve fertility are still in the experimental stages. Ovary transplant has been done successfully, but carries a risk of transplanting residual cancer cells. In vitro maturation skips the medication stage of IVF, instead harvesting immature eggs that are then grown in a laboratory. Due to their preliminary nature, these therapies are not currently widely used or recommended for cancer patients.

Don’t wait to get answers

Fertility preservation before cancer treatment may not be the best choice for everyone. In some cases, it is unwise to delay cancer therapies long enough to undergo an IVF cycle. In others, the cancer may have already damaged your fertility, making fertility preservation treatment unlikely to succeed. Other considerations include your age, type and dose of chemotherapy, whether your uterus will be removed and the stage of your cancer.

Our Los Angeles oncofertility experts will collaborate with your oncologist and other specialists to evaluate your individual case and make recommendations about whether fertility preservation is a good option for you. Protecting your health will always be our first priority.

For information about fertility preservation for cancer fighters, contact us to schedule a consultation to learn more about fertility preservation in Los Angeles.