The reality of a cancer diagnosis already requires many important and overwhelming decisions. It’s understandable that a physician’s and oncologist’s focus post-diagnosis is treatment, but the future and goals of one’s life once treatment is complete is a great motivation during treatment. As a result, family planning was one factor that was often neglected while discussing cancer treatment — until recently.
Cancer treatments like chemotherapy, radiation and even some medications can harm men and women’s fertility in the long run. In recent years, due to cancer treatment’s dedicated focus on life after treatment, treatment includes a discussion on family planning goals and fertility preservation before the patient starts chemo or radiation. This discussion may surprise some people, especially those who are young and are considering having a baby but not for many years.
Below you’ll find three distinct ways a cancer diagnosis can affect your future family planning goals:
1. If you haven’t already, you’ll need to consider if and when you’d like to build your family.
Planning for a future that may be five, 10 or more years in the future may seem premature, but when you’ve recently been diagnosed with cancer and your treatment plan includes chemotherapy and/or radiation, it’s a necessary discussion. Of course, you are not required to stick to these plans, but knowing if you want to have a child from your eggs or your sperm is an integral piece to this decision.
2. Your provider may recommend fertility preservation.
Fertility preservation — elective egg freezing or elective sperm freezing — differs depending on a person’s specific needs. Fertility preservation is the process of freezing a woman’s eggs or a man’s sperm so it can be safely stored until you’re ready to build your family. Cancer diagnoses or major reproductive surgery often prompts the decision to freeze eggs or sperm.
3. Conceiving without assisted reproductive technology (ART) may not be possible.
Because of the harm cancer treatment can cause to fertility, conceiving naturally without reproductive technology like fertility medications, intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF) may be difficult or not possible.
It’s very important for cancer patients to have a thorough discussion with their oncologist regarding whether fertility preservation is possible. For some women, cancer treatment will need to begin immediately, which will not leave enough time to undergo the egg freezing process. For men, they simply need to provide a number of semen samples for cryopreservation. In the event that fertility preservation is possible, Fertility Solutions works with women to freeze their eggs so they can have a baby when they are ready.