Cancer & Fertility Preservation
Many reproductive-age men and women successfully undergo cancer treatment, and although many people return to good health, treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation may make it difficult for men and women to conceive. The UAB Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility offers the most advanced treatments for patients looking to preserve or restore fertility in the face of cancer. The clinic's experts work with each patient and his or her oncologist to determine which fertility preservation options are best prior to chemotherapy or radiation, and assist in determining the patient’s fertility potential after treatment.
Several fertility preservation and restoration options are available for men and women:
Preserving Fertility in Women
- IVF and Embryo Freezing. Prior to chemotherapy or radiation, the patient’s eggs are retrieved and fertilized using in vitro fertilization (IVF) , and the embryos are frozen for later use. This type of fertility preservation is the most established and has the highest success.
- IVF and Egg Freezing. The patient’s eggs are retrieved prior to chemotherapy or radiation. The eggs are frozen without being fertilized with the hopes of using them later with IVF. However, egg freezing is experimental.
- Ovarian Tissue Freezing. Ovarian Tissue Freezing is experimental, but allows for retrieval of ovarian tissue without the delay or necessary medications associated with IVF. The frozen tissue may be stored for years and re-implanted with restoration of hormone production. Several babies have been born as a result of this technique.
- Ovarian Transposition or Relocation. Some types of cancer require radiation therapy directly to the pelvis. A surgical procedure may be performed to move the ovaries out of the pelvis and away from direct exposure to radiation.
Preserving Fertility in Men
Semen samples may be frozen prior to the start of chemotherapy or radiation. In some cases, artificial or intrauterine insemination (IUI) may be performed when the couple is ready to pursue fertility. In most instances, IVF with injection of the sperm into the egg is required because of low number and poor quality of the sperm.
Fertility After Cancer Treatment
Many women and men are able to safely pursue pregnancy after chemotherapy or radiation. UAB reproductive experts work with oncologists to determine each patient’s fertility potential and treatment options.
For men, sperm production and function may take several years to recover after treatment has ended. A semen analysis is used to determine the potential for successful pregnancy. If sperm counts are low, IUI or IVF may be required. In some cases, consultation with our male-fertility specialists and retrieval of sperm directly from the testicle will be required. Treatment with donor sperm is also available.
After clearance from the oncologist, a woman's fertility potential may be determined with a blood test and ultrasound of the ovaries. The full range of reproductive options, including IUI, IVF, IVF with donor eggs, embryo adoption, gestation carriers, and adoption, will be reviewed by our fertility team.