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Family Planning Options for Cancer Patients

Last updated 6 years ago

The chemotherapy and radiation therapies that are used to treat cancer patients can damage a woman’s eggs and may even render her infertile.  In order to increase the chances of being able to have a genetic child in the future, egg or embryo vitrification is recommended before cancer treatment begins. 

Vitrification is a simple procedure in which an embryo or oocyte (egg) is placed in a small amount of cryoprotectant fluid and is then cooled at a very rapid rate. Freezing the material quickly prevents ice crystals from forming and damaging the egg or embryo. After being frozen, the oocyte or embryo is stored in liquid nitrogen until the mother decides it is time to be thawed and transferred.

Freezing embryos through vitification is the best solution because embryos are less likely to sustain damage during the thawing process. Embryo freezing has been around for decades and has excellent success rates. Egg freezing is still considered by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine to be experiential. Success rates vary greatly from center to center.  Although, it is still a valid option for cancer patients without partners or sperm donors, be sure to discuss the likelihood of success with a center which has extensive experience in egg freezing.

To be a candidate for egg freezing, you must be a woman under 40 who either does not have a male partner or who prefers not to use sperm from a partner or donor. Patients must have medical clearance from their cancer specialist to use the injectable medications to stimulate ovulation and undergo the egg retrieval procedure. To be a candidate for embryo freezing, women must be 45 or younger and wish to use the sperm of a male partner or anonymous donor to fertilize their egg and create an embryo.  These women must also have clearance from their oncologists to undergo the injections and retrieval procedure. 

The compassionate physicians and staff at the Fertility Centers of Illinois are dedicated leaders in the field of reproduction, and offer egg and embryo freezing.  You can learn more about us and our egg vitrification services by contacting our staff at (877) 499-8730.


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