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Preserving fertility in women with cancer

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After going through cancer treatment, it is possible that a woman’s body recovers naturally and starts producing mature eggs that can be fertilised, informs Dr Priti Gupta, Fertility & IVF Expert, First Step IVF Clinic

After going through cancer treatment, it is possible that a woman’s body recovers naturally and start producing mature eggs that can be fertilised. A few alternatives below:

Breast cancer and cervical cancer are the two common types of cancer in women. Among various types of cancers, 27 per cent women suffer from these two. As the risk of this disease is increasing rapidly, it has now become essential for women to opt for preserving fertility.

After going through cancer treatment, it is possible that a woman’s body recovers naturally and start producing mature eggs that can be fertilised. For a woman who is going through cancer, doctors may recommend her to wait for six months to about two years before conceiving. The duration depends upon the intensity and type of cancer, and the treatment used.

Alternatives for fertility preservation

Egg freezing

This is one of the most common methods for fertility preservation. Women having no partner can use this method for getting pregnant. In this process, mature eggs are taken out from ovary and then frozen. Thereafter, once the woman is ready to conceive, the frozen eggs can be fertilised and implanted in her uterus.

Egg freezing has become more efficient and successful with the new method of egg freezing called vitrification. Another method of egg freezing could be — freeze half of the eggs and fertilise the rest with sperm from a donor and freeze the embryos.

Embryos freezing

It is another best method for preserving women fertility, said to be the most established and successful method of egg freezing. In this method, mature eggs are removed from the ovaries and are fertilised in a lab, also called in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).

In the IVF process, thousands of eggs are put in a sterile dish. Sometimes, one sperm is injected into each egg and the embryos are frozen to be used after cancer treatment. A woman can have high chances of successful pregnancy, if several embryos are stored.

For women who are aged less than 35, a single embryo transfer is the safest way of using IVF to get pregnant so as to avoid multiple pregnancy.

Ovarian tissue freezing

In this process, all or part of one ovary is removed through laparoscopy. The ovarian tissue is usually cut into small strips and then frozen and stored. This process of ovarian tissue freezing allows the woman to freeze last number of immature eggs for future use. When frozen ovarian tissue is re-implanted into the body and regains its functions, immature frozen eggs within the tissue start developing normally.

The ovarian tissue is placed in the pelvis, during the post-cancer treatment. Once the transplanted tissue starts functioning again, the eggs can be collected and fertilised. The ovarian tissue takes blood supply and starts producing hormones after the transplantation, whereas some of the tissues die or may last for few months or few years.

Summing up

Some women have healthy uterus, but don’t have any egg and donor is not an option for them. Women who cannot produce healthy eggs and opt the option of egg donation, this might be a successful option for them. Further, a woman having healthy uterus can experience pregnancy by utilising donor’s embryos.

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