Cancer has a wealth of immediate impacts on a patient’s life: disrupting normal routines, work and school commitments, finances and countless other areas. It can also have a long-lasting effect on family-planning. However, with enough forward-thinking and preparation—and plenty of research about what cancer patients need to know about preserving fertility—those who are aiming to become parents don’t have to let their plans get knocked off course.
There are a number of reasons that infertility and cancer are known to go hand in hand. For one, treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can do extensive damage to both men and women’s reproductive systems, damaging both eggs and sperm. Miscarriages are an unfortunate reality for many patients, and treatment-related damage can also lead to birth defects if a child is carried to term. While the risk for treatment-related genetic damage does subside a year after a treatment, some patients may be permanently affected. Additionally, both treatments and medications can also affect hormones and other organs, making conceiving and carrying a challenge.
However, there are options for those who still want to fulfill their goal of starting or expanding a family. Here’s what cancer patients need to know about preserving fertility:
- Embryo freezing: In this method, before a woman begins cancer treatment, her eggs are retrieved and fertilized with the sperm of a partner or donor. The resulting embryos are frozen and stored for future use, at which time they can be reimplanted in the woman’s uterus or that of a surrogate. While a successful approach, it can be costly, with prices as high as $8,000. It can also be time-consuming, as physicians await the woman’s full menstrual cycle, which can conflict with cancer care plans.
- Egg freezing: Some women may opt to only freeze unfertilized eggs, though this is a newer method that has not yet been widely accepted as successful.
- Hormones: Women undergoing chemotherapy can be administered hormone shots that temporarily start menopause to pause the cycle and ideally spare the ovaries from any damage.
- Ovarian changes: For some patients, it may be possible to surgically and temporarily move the ovaries out of the area where radiation treatment is focused.
- Sperm banking: Men preparing to have cancer treatment have a much more straightforward avenue than women: sperm banking. Sperm bank facilities can collect and safely store samples from the patient for future use after treatment, with the average storage fee at about $500 for five years.
- Other options: Depending on the patient’s particular case, he or she may also want to consider alternative options for having children, such as using a donor egg or sperm, surrogacy and adoption. And for those who are committed to resuming their previous family-building plan, fertility may still an option, but patients should be sure to consult with both oncologists and fertility specialists before embarking on that journey.
Life Credit Company is a licensed consumer lender that is dedicated to providing financial assistance for cancer patients and others who are facing serious illness. Contact us directly at 888-274-1777 or reach out to us online to learn about our Living Benefit Loan Program.