\ ˌäŋ-kō-fər-ˈtil-ə-tē \
A field of medicine concerned with minimizing the negative effects of cancer treatment (such as chemotherapy or radiation) on the reproductive system and fertility and with assisting individuals with reproductive impairments resulting from cancer therapy. Oncofertility procedures may include collecting and freezing eggs, sperm, or ovarian tissue before cancer treatment begins or using donor eggs or sperm when impaired fertility follows cancer treatment.
In the coming months, there is a huge focus on Oncofertility, so we are putting all of our energy focusing on this dreaded disease and how, when faced with a particular cancer, what treatments are available to you and whether it is possible to preserve your fertility.
Cancer is a heart-breaking diagnosis with many facing extremely difficult (and sometimes life-changing) decisions when it comes treatment, so by preserving your fertility may just be the light at the end of a very challenging tunnel.
September is Cervical Cancer Awareness month, so we have created a Q&A style article that we hope will assist you when making decisions regarding Oncofertility.
Can I fall pregnant if I have Cervical Cancer?
Unfortunately, after most treatments for cervical cancer, you won’t be able to get pregnant. This is because you may have: surgery to remove your womb (a radical hysterectomy) – radiotherapy as part of your treatment that affects the womb and may stop your ovaries working.
What if I have the very early stages of Cervical Cancer? Would I have a chance of falling pregnant at all?
If you have early cervical cancer, it may be possible to have surgery to remove the cancer but leave your womb in place so that you might be able to become pregnant in the future.
Should I freeze my eggs/embryos before I start my cancer treatment?
If you would like to become pregnant in the future, and you have early cervical cancer, it is important to consider preserving your fertility by freezing your eggs before your cancer treatment. If you are married, it would be advisable to freeze your embryos rather (as embryos are more likely to survive the freezing process).
If you’re having certain types of cancer treatment, including chemotherapy or radiotherapy, you might want to consider freezing your eggs, sperm or embryos. This is because some of the drugs used in cancer treatment can cause infertility, especially in high doses.
What cancer treatments are available if I am in the early stages of Cervical Cancer?
An option for early cervical cancer (small stage 1 cancer) is a Radical Trachelectomy.
Your doctor (gynaecological oncologist) removes most of the cervix and the upper part of the vagina. They put a permanent stitch around the internal opening of the cervix to hold it closed.
Babies have been born safely to women who have had this type of operation. But there is a risk of miscarriage or premature birth. The babies have to be born by caesarean section due to the permanent stitch.
What cancer treatments are available if I have advanced Cervical Cancer?
If you have advanced Cervical Cancer, your only option would be radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Having radiotherapy to treat cervical cancer will affect the womb. This means it is not possible to have children afterwards.
Radiotherapy and some chemotherapy drugs can also affect the ovaries, bringing on an early menopause.
Occasionally it’s possible to move the ovaries out of the treatment area before radiotherapy begins, to try to avoid an early menopause. This is done by keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery.
Your eggs or some ovarian tissue can be removed and frozen before starting treatment. The eggs could then be used for fertility treatment and a surrogate pregnancy afterwards, but this is very rare.
To all those incredibly strong WARRIOR women who are bravely fighting cancer, who have lost their battle to cancer and those, who have fought and won. We SALUTE YOU ALL!
Love EDSA x
For legal advice regarding freezing your embryo/gametes, speak to our Fertility Lawyer, Andrew Martin before your treatment.
To discuss options regarding preserving your fertility, do not hesitate to ask one of our Fertility Specialists now for advice.