How to Get Pregnant After Cancer – Questions and Answers
Chemotherapy or radiotherapy often saves the lives of people with cancer. Unfortunately, a consequence of this type of treatment can be the loss or significant reduction of fertility. This affects women, men, and children alike. Prof. Dr. Krzysztof Łukaszuk from the Medical University of Gdańsk, co-founder of the iYoni App, discusses how fertility can be protected in oncology patients.
What happens to the fertility of patients treated for cancer?
Aggressive cancer treatment is a huge stress for all cells in the body, including reproductive cells. As a result, patients who have undergone this type of therapy often have significantly reduced fertility. The chances of becoming pregnant for women over the age of 25 after oncological treatment are estimated at 5%. The use of chemotherapy causes a significant increase in genetic material disorders, which can have consequences for the health and life of conceived children. In the case of men, depending on the type of actions taken, we can talk about temporary or permanent loss of fertility.
Can this be prevented?
Yes, definitely. The most important is knowledge about the possibility of protecting fertility before treating cancer and taking appropriate actions early enough. Therefore, it is valuable for information on this subject to be widely available – both in the media and in facilities caring for patients. Although oncological treatment is associated with a huge psychological burden and is a difficult challenge, it is worth thinking about further life, including family, after overcoming the disease.
The first step is a conversation with a specialist – the doctor conducting the therapy or with an infertility treatment clinic. You can also contact a special hotline, whose employees will suggest further steps and facilitate contact with fertility-preserving clinics. Then, depending on the indications and medical situation, it is necessary to undergo tests and appropriate procedures.
What actions are taken to preserve fertility in cancer patients?
A man can donate his semen and freeze it in a Sperm Bank. It is best if he does this in a specialized center, where the material will be properly secured. The semen is subjected to cryoconservation and stored. After the patient’s return to health, it can be used during insemination or in vitro procedure to achieve pregnancy for his partner. Usually, a larger number of samples are frozen to increase the chances of success in the future.
Women wishing to secure their fertility can take advantage of the possibility of freezing ovaries, egg cells, or ovarian tissue.
Freezing egg cells is a safe and quite effective method of preserving fertility. Current cryoconservation techniques allow for the storage of material and its use in the future. Of course, this does not guarantee pregnancy, so if possible, more cells are frozen.
Freezing ovarian tissue is an optimal option. To secure fertility, a piece of the ovary is taken and frozen. After cancer treatment, it is transplanted back to the woman. This solution gives a chance both to regain fertility and to achieve pregnancy, as well as the return of normal hormonal functions.
A solution for patients in a stable, committed relationship is to undergo part of the in vitro fertilization procedure. The embryos obtained in its course are frozen. Thanks to the vitrification method, the percentage of pregnancies obtained from frozen embryos is very high.
What are the chances of pregnancy after securing the disease and what does further procedure involve?
The chances of having offspring after cancer treatment depend on many factors. Important will be fertility before starting therapy, overall health, any complications after anti-cancer therapy. For women, the age at the time of disease diagnosis should also be considered.
Suppose a man has deposited semen in the Sperm Bank. In that case, he can use it after recovery for his partner’s insemination procedure or an in vitro program, which is characterized by higher efficiency. Women, whose egg cells or embryos were secured, should undergo an in vitro fertilization procedure to get pregnant. In turn, patients who decided to freeze ovarian tissue can undergo its retransplantation after returning to health.
In most cases – if patients are young and their health condition is good – with proper management of the procedure, it is possible to achieve pregnancy.