The American Cancer Society estimates that 22,440 American women receive an ovarian cancer diagnosis every year. These women are faced with surgical removal of an ovary due to cancerous tumors. Did you know? More than half of these women will be facing ovarian cancer during their prime reproductive years. Bottom line: Preserving a woman’s fertility in cases of ovarian cancer through Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) must be promoted.
Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
An ovarian cancer diagnosis causes great concern to women in their prime reproductive years. September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition is the support organization advocating for fertility preservation for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Why is this important? Because there is a very narrow window available to initiate viable fertility preservation options – sometimes only weeks.
Ovarian Cancer Treatment
Both ovarian cancer and the chemotherapy treatments for same have serious consequences for a woman’s ability to conceive a baby in the future. National Ovarian Awareness Month promotes conversations about the viable fertility preservation options available to women through egg freezing – oocyte cryopreservation. Why is this important? Because there is a very narrow window to initiate viable fertility preservation options – sometimes only weeks.
How Ovarian Cancer Affects a Woman’s Fertility
Chemotherapy drugs and/or radiation therapy used to treat ovarian cancer will have a negative impact on a woman’s future fertility. Treatment for ovarian cancer can also involve removal of part or all of a woman’s reproductive organs:
- One or both ovaries
- One or both Fallopian tubes
- The uterus
Before such drastic surgery is performed, women must know all of their options to preserve their fertility for future family planning, including:
- Egg Freezing – Oocyte Cryopreservation
- Embryo Freezing and the Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) process
- Ovarian Tissue Freezing
- Gestational Surrogacy
Egg Freezing Through IVF – Oocyte Cryopreservation
Egg freezing performed through In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is the most common type of fertility preservation treatment for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Through IVF, a woman’s natural egg production is stimulated with fertility drugs into producing several eggs – 10 to 15 typically per cycle. These eggs are then surgically retrieved and cryopreserved using an advanced technique known as vitrification.
Vitrification is a flash-freezing method preventing the formation of ice crystals between the cells forming an egg. Ice crystals can damage an egg’s cells. By surgically retrieving and cryopreserving a woman’s eggs through vitrification for future fertilization, the eggs are protected from the adverse effects of ovarian cancer treatments, such as chemo and radiation.
Embryo Cryopreservation and Future FET Procedures
When egg freezing is not recommended by a patient’s oncologist, embryo cryopreservation is also used to preserve a couple’s future fertility through IVF and FET technology.
By surgically retrieving eggs, fertilizing them in vitro (in a laboratory setting), and then freezing the resulting high quality embryos, a couple can increase their future chances of conceiving a child biologically related to both the mother and father.
When thawed, embryos can be transferred to the mother’s uterus – or – to the uterus of a gestational surrogate should the mother’s uterus be unamenable to transfer and implantation. Frozen embryos can give a couple the best chances of pregnancy after recovery from ovarian cancer.
Ovarian Tissue Transplant
The National Institutes of Health reported that [h]uman ovarian tissue transplantation has resulted in the birth of over 70 children worldwide. Preserving female fertility through ovarian tissue freezing is a proven safe and successful procedure.
Ovarian tissue freezing is accomplished in an outpatient surgical procedure by removing a thin piece of the outer membrane of one of the woman’s ovary – the preserved ovary. The outer membrane of an ovary is where a woman’s eggs are located. This ovarian tissue is cryopreserved for later transplant to the woman’s other ovary – the non-preserved ovary.
According to a 2015 study published in the journal of Human Reproduction, 10 out of 32 women facing chemotherapy were able to conceive naturally after undergoing ovarian tissue freezing before cancer treatment.
Celebrated Center Preserving Fertility Pre and Post- Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, it is important to work with a fertility care team having the experience required to design a customized fertility preservation treatment plan meeting your personal needs. To schedule your initial consultation with one of the celebrated fertility specialists at New Hope Fertility NYC call 917.525.5496.