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Oncofertility, an essential program for cancer patients, addresses the potential loss of fertility resulting from cancer treatment. Many individuals may hesitate to inquire about this topic due to discomfort, a focus on their cancer diagnosis, financial concerns, worries about treatment delays, or a lack of consideration for family planning. Nonetheless, understanding fertility preservation options is crucial for emotional well-being and overall quality of life. It is advisable to discuss fertility risks with our clinicians before commencing treatment or as soon as possible thereafter.

What Is Oncofertility?

Oncofertility refers to the program that assists cancer patients in exploring fertility preservation options before undergoing cancer treatment. Oncofertility counseling is initially offered to all patients from birth up to age 45 and to anyone expressing interest.

Consult your doctor to discuss your treatment options and determine your personal risk of infertility. You might also consider asking these questions:

  • How will cancer and its treatment impact my fertility?
  • What fertility preservation options are available to me?
  • How much time do I have to preserve my fertility before starting treatment?
  • After completing treatment, how long will it take for my menstrual cycles to resume?
  • Is pregnancy safe for me after treatment, and if so, when?
  • Can you refer me or my child to a reproductive specialist?

Treatment Options for Girls and Women

Girls and women facing cancer have several treatment options to consider based on factors like age, treatment plan, and the presence of a partner. In some cases, carrying a pregnancy to term before therapy may be feasible. Discuss your options with your oncologist or our clinicians. Options include:

  • Oocyte (Egg) Cryopreservation: Harvesting and freezing eggs for future use, which may delay cancer treatment by up to 14 days. This method has a 4-12% live birth rate per egg.

  • Ovarian Transposition: Relocating the ovaries out of the radiation field to prevent radiation-induced damage.

  • Ovarian Suppression: An experimental treatment using medication to modulate hormones, potentially making eggs more resistant to damage during chemotherapy.

  • Ovarian Tissue Cryopreservation (OTC): Removing and freezing ovarian tissue before cancer treatment begins. The whole ovary is removed and frozen, typically organized within two to three days.

Treatment Options for Boys and Men

Male cancer patients should consult their oncologist or a fertility preservation specialist to determine the best option. Treatment options for males include:

  • Sperm Cryopreservation: Collecting and freezing a semen sample for later use in intrauterine insemination or in vitro fertilization. This process usually takes one to two days to organize.

  • Testicular Tissue Cryopreservation (TTC): An experimental procedure involving the direct removal and freezing of testicular tissue for later use. This is suitable for prepubertal males not yet producing sperm and for postpubertal males unable to produce a sample through masturbation. Typically, it takes 2-3 days to organize.

When the time comes, you can always discuss options with your oncofertility team, who will assist you in determining the best approach for achieving pregnancy using your frozen samples.