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Fertility & Reproductive Health

Fertility Preservation for Cancer Patients

Each year in the U.S., about 80,000 young adults ages 20 – 39 are diagnosed with cancer. While cancer survival rates for this age group are high, many patients may worry about the effect cancer treatment will have on their future fertility. At University Hospitals Fertility Center, we offer a comprehensive program that includes many fertility preservation options for patients with cancer.

Learn More About Fertility Preservation at UH

To learn more about fertility preservation options for cancer patients, make an appointment with one of our fertility experts.

Female fertility preservation: Call 216-285-5028.

Male fertility preservation: Visit UH urology services to learn more.

How Cancer Treatment Can Affect Fertility

Many cancer treatments, while very effective at fighting cancer, can also harm healthy tissue and may cause side effects, including possible infertility. These effects on fertility may be temporary or long-term. Cancer treatments that could impact fertility include:

  • Surgery, including the removal of reproductive organs such as ovaries, uterus or testicles
  • Radiation therapy to the pelvic region can cause damage to the reproductive organs and high doses may destroy eggs in the ovaries.
  • Chemotherapy, depending on the type of drug and the dosage used, can affect sperm in men and eggs and hormone levels in women
  • Hormone therapies used to treat breast cancer in women can affect fertility, though the effects are often temporary

Fertility Counseling for Cancer Patients

The fertility experts at UH can counsel patients with cancer on the many effective options available for fertility preservation. Together with patients their families, we review all the fertility preservation options available, and make decisions based on the patient’s goals and desires. We work closely with the cancer experts at UH Seidman Cancer Center and the Angie Fowler Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Institute at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital to ensure that our fertility preservation techniques are effective and safe for each patient’s unique case.

Fertility Preservation Options

UH Fertility Center provides the latest techniques in fertility preservation options for both men and women with cancer. Our patients also have access to clinical trials that allows them access to innovative procedures that many not be available at other centers.

Options for Women

Many options are available depending on the individual’s circumstances, including:

  • Moving ovaries away from the field of radiation
  • Oocyte cryopreservation (egg freezing): Hormones are administered to help the ovaries mature their eggs. Then harvesting allows frozen eggs to be saved for future use. This process only takes 2-4 weeks and can be fast-tracked so that life-saving cancer treatments is not significantly delayed
  • In vitro fertilization with embryo freezing: Patients can choose to undergo in vitro fertilization using their harvested eggs and the sperm of a partner or donor and freeze the embryos for later use.
  • Ovarian tissue cryopreservation: With this experimental and innovative procedure, an ovary is surgically removed and frozen. If or when the patient is ready to have children, the ovary can be implemented back into the body. Alternatively, the eggs can be matured in the ovary and later fertilized for pregnancy.
  • Gonadotropin releasing hormone agonists: This technique uses hormones to suppress the function of the ovaries before chemotherapy. This can help protect the ovaries from chemo-related side effects or damage.

Options for Men

Options available for men include:

  • Sperm banking (sperm cryopreservation): This is a simple and inexpensive treatment that allows a cancer patient to collect and freeze their sperm for later use. This procedure does not delay treatment to any significant degree and is effective even with a low sperm count.
  • Testicular Sperm Extraction (TESE): This technique uses a surgical procedure to collect testicular tissue and extract sperm cells. These cells can be preserved for future use.
  • Testicular Tissue Cryopreservation: This new and innovative option can help with fertility preservation in pre-pubescent males who are not yet producing sperm. A portion of the testicle tissue is surgically collected and frozen for future use.

Fertility preservation for men is facilitated by University Hospitals Urology Institute. Learn more or make an appointment with a UH urologist.

Post-Treatment Fertility Options

Some cancer patients may opt to focus on their cancer treatment and postpone fertility preservation concerns. There are still many options for those patients if they experience fertility issues down the road. These include:

Individuals or couples can choose any single service or a combination of services in order to achieve their family-growing goals. A consultation with a UH fertility specialist will help you understand your options and make the best decision for your family.