For more information, please call 304.526.2652

A man comforts his pregnant wife who has cancer

Thanks to improved treatments, many survivors of cancer and other diseases can now look forward to long-term survival.  However, many of the therapies that have helped increase survival have side effects that may cause the loss of fertility. 

To help these patients fulfill their dreams of having children, Cabell Huntington Hospital now offers fertility preservation options for men and women.

Timing is Everything

Fertility preservation methods are most effective when used before cancer treatments begin. Patients diagnosed with cancer should ask their oncologist how the cancer and its treatment may affect their ability to conceive a child in the future.

If there is cause for concern, the patient should be referred to William N. Burns, MD, medical director of the Center for Advanced Reproductive Medicine, who will explain available options based on the patient’s gender, age, fertility history and type of cancer.

Procedures for women include

  • Embryo freezing: This is usually considered the best option for patients who have an available sperm donor.  Once a woman’s eggs have matured through taking prescribed medication, the doctor removes them vaginally in an outpatient procedure. The eggs are fertilized in the lab, and the most viable embryos can be frozen for up to 15 years.
  • Oocyte freezing:  This process is similar to embryo freezing, except the eggs are not fertilized prior to being frozen.

Procedures for men include

  • Sperm banking: Multiple collections of sperm take place, with a 48-hour abstinence period between collections. The sperm samples are then frozen and stored for future use.
  • Testicular epididymal sperm extraction (TESE):  Sperm cells are extracted through outpatient needle aspiration or tissue biopsy, then frozen and stored for future use. This procedure is often used for men with blockage of the sperm duct, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, prior vasectomy or impotence due to surgical procedures.

Fertility can be affected by a number of different factors, including disease, lifestyle, career or age. Whatever the cause, cryopreservation and cryostorage offer infertile patients another attempt at having children — an option that may improve their emotional outlook and future quality of life.

For more information on these and other options for fertility preservation, call the Center for Advanced Reproductive Medicine at 304.526.2652.