Each year more than 140,000 people are diagnosed with cancer during their childbearing years. While modern medicine gives young adults a better chance at surviving cancer and other serious diseases than ever before, treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery can sometimes hinder reproduction.
At the UC Center for Reproductive Health, we tailor the fertility sparing treatment for each individual, which can include:
- Semen Banking
- Embryo Banking
- Oocyte (Egg) Banking
- Ovarian Tissue Banking
- Surgical Transposition
- Medical Suppression
The UC Center for Reproductive Health is proud to be a part of a network called the Oncofertility Consortium, a nationwide program overseen by the National Institutes of Health, designed to explore the reproductive future of cancer survivors. Our center is one of 50 participating sites and our patients have access to the latest clinical care initiatives and translational research in the area of fertility preservation.
Fertility preservation, however, is not limited to cancer patients. Patients who require bone marrow, stem cell transplants and even some with rheumatic diseases may face the decision of the fertility sparing options. Often, patients have scheduling and financial concerns when fertility preservation treatments must be done immediately. We will accommodate your immediate scheduling needs and work closely with your medical and surgical oncologist (cancer) physician to expedite your care. Our financial counselors are available to assist you in determining if insurance coverage is available and estimate costs for services if not covered by insurance. In addition, the UC Center for Reproductive Health has partnered with the Sharing Hope Program, which was created by the Lance Armstrong LIVESTRONG Foundation to provide educational, moral and financial support to patients. The program allows our Center to provide discounted services and donated medications for those who qualify.
Sperm banking (sperm freezing) is done before medical treatment begins. Semen samples are typically produced through masturbation in a private room, but for males who have no sperm in their ejaculate—due either to an obstruction or testicular dysfunction—there is the option of undergoing Surgical Sperm Retrieval. Once collected, the sperm is processed in the laboratory, frozen and stored for future use by intrauterine insemination or in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Embryo banking (embryo freezing) involves harvesting a woman’s egg(s) and inseminating the eggs with sperm in the lab to produce an embryo for future use through in vitro fertilization (IVF). It takes about two weeks to complete. The resulting embryos are cryopreserved (frozen) and stored until you are in complete remission and healthy enough to become pregnant. Collaboration with your oncology physician is critical so as not to compromise medical treatment.
Oocyte (Egg) banking, although still considered an experimental technique, is one of the newest innovations in field of assisted reproduction and has resulted in the birth of more than 500 babies worldwide to date. Similar to embryo banking, egg banking also takes about two weeks to complete. The resulting eggs are cryopreserved (frozen) through a process called vitrification and stored until you are healthy enough to become pregnant. This new technology potentially allows women to bank eggs without a significant other and alleviates issues of immediately identifying a sperm source. Again, collaboration with the treating physician is critical.
Ovarian tissue freezing, also considered experimental, is where all or part of one ovary is removed by laparoscopy. The ovarian tissue is usually cut into small strips, frozen and stored to be transplanted back into a woman’s body after treatment.
Surgical transposition means moving the ovaries away if the targeted area of radiation treatment is in the pelvic region. This is usually done through outpatient laparoscopy where the ovaries are moved above the pelvic area. It is still unclear if ovarian transposition improves live births, but research suggests about half the women who underwent the procedure start menstruating again.
Medical Suppression therapy using Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists (GnRH-a) are long-acting hormones that can be used to cause a woman to go into menopause for a short period of time. These hormones are usually given as a monthly shot starting a couple of weeks before chemo or pelvic radiation therapy begins. The hope is that reducing activity in the ovaries will reduce the number of eggs that are damaged, and as a result, lower the risk of infertility. Though this is a noninvasive alternative for patients before undergoing therapies that could limit the survival of eggs, studies have been conflicting on its benefit for long-term preservation of ovarian function.