USC Fertility

Fertility Preservation Before Cancer Treatment

Explore fertility preservation before cancer treatment starts

Female fertility declines over time until a woman reaches menopause. However, cancer treatment can more quickly and dramatically reduce a woman’s egg supply. In fact, chemotherapy leads to premature menopause in 15% to 89% of patients. Women receiving higher doses and certain types of chemotherapy, women who are over 35 at the time of treatment and women with Hodgkin’s disease are particularly at risk. Thankfully, it’s possible to pursue fertility preservation before cancer treatment starts.

The Los Angeles infertility specialists at USC Fertility can help women explore oncofertility options that range from egg cryopreservation to ovarian tissue freezing.

What are common options for fertility preservation before cancer treatment?

One of the most common oncofertility options for women is egg freezing (cryopreservation). This is the ideal option for a woman who does not have a male partner and is not interested in using donor sperm. Additionally, the woman should be able to safely delay cancer treatment for about two weeks.

Egg freezing requires a patient to take hormonal medications for 10-14 days. The goal is to produce and mature multiple eggs. One of our Los Angeles infertility specialists will retrieve the mature eggs and then send them to our laboratory for freezing.

It’s important to select a fertility clinic that has expertise freezing and thawing eggs to achieve live births. USC Fertility has been offering egg freezing since 2004, and our center has helped many patients have live births during this time.

Embryo freezing is another great option for fertility preservation before cancer treatment. This form of oncofertility is best for a woman who has a male partner or who wants to use donor sperm. The woman should be able to safely delay cancer treatment for two to six weeks.

To pursue embryo freezing, a patient must undergo an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle. This requires the woman to take hormonal medications and undergo an egg retrieval, just like with egg freezing. However, instead of freezing the eggs, our laboratory team will fertilize them with sperm. They will then freeze the resulting embryos and store them for the patient to use later.

What are some other options for women with a cancer diagnosis?

If a woman cannot delay cancer treatment, a surgeon can remove ovarian tissue containing immature eggs using a minor surgical procedure (laparoscopy). They can then make sure this tissue is preserved for future use.

While this oncofertility option appears to be promising, ovarian tissue freezing is experimental. As such, a doctor should perform it using ethics board-approved research protocols.

For a woman who requires abdominal or pelvic radiation as part of her cancer therapy, fertility sparing surgery can be an option. This type of fertility preservation before cancer treatment involves surgically moving the ovaries to minimize their exposure to radiation.

Whether this treatment is an option depends on the stage and type of cancer. Additionally, this surgery can be difficult, which means only experienced gynecologic oncologists should perform it.

If you have received a cancer diagnosis, our Los Angeles infertility specialists can help. Contact us and let our team know that you are a cancer patient so that we can expedite your treatment. Our goal is to help you preserve your fertility so that you can look forward to having a family after you beat cancer.