Reproductive Questions and Answers for Cancer Survivors: Fertility Treatments

cancer-ribbonIn-vitro Fertilization (IVF) with your own eggs: 

This type of IVF involves fertilizing your eggs with your partner’s or a donor’s sperm in a laboratory environment after you received injections of fertility medicine. These fertilized eggs or embryos, are then put back into your uterus. Otherwise, they are frozen and kept in the lab until you are ready to become pregnant. At that time, one of the frozen embryos (fertilized eggs) is thawed and then put into your uterus where it has the potential of developing into a baby.

Human eggs can be frozen and fertilized later; however, an egg that is first frozen, and fertilized later, appears to have a somewhat lower chance of resulting in a baby than an egg that was fertilized before it was frozen. Most girls or women choose to freeze eggs before cancer treatment so that they can have them fertilized with their partner’s sperm in the future.

IVF – with donor eggs: This is done by removing another woman’s eggs from her ovaries, fertilizing the egg with your partner’s or donor’s sperm, and putting a fertilized egg into your uterus. You would then carry and give birth to the baby. This type of fertility treatment is offered to those who have POI (premature ovarian insufficiency) and do not have quality eggs. Your uterus (womb) will be able to carry a baby even if you have POI, unless you received high doses of radiation directly to your uterus.

Gestational Carriers: If, as a result of your cancer treatment, your ovaries are still healthy but your uterus is not, it is possible to have another woman (called a gestational carrier) carry a baby that comes from one of your eggs. In this case, eggs would be removed from your ovaries and fertilized by your partner’s or donor’s sperm in a lab. A fertilized egg would then be placed into the gestational carrier’s uterus, and she would carry the baby until birth. Before this process, you would work with a lawyer and sign a contract with the gestational carrier. If both your ovaries and uterus are damaged, you can also use a gestational carrier with donor eggs and your partner’s or donor’s sperm.

Adoption: This is another important option for young women who have premature ovarian insufficiency (POI). There are many children who need a home and are adopted by both couples and single women who are unable to have their own children.