What is Oncofertility?
Oncofertility refers to the medical field that combines the fields of oncology (means the study of tumours) and various fertility treatment methods with the purpose of maximizing the reproductive potential of cancer patients and survivors.
Cancer treatments, especially chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery can impair or destroy a person’s ability to have children later in life. In women, these therapies cause ovarian damage that can lead to genetically damaged oocytes (eggs), ovarian failure, early menopause, or other reproductive problems.
In men, cancer treatments can similarly cause damage to the testes that interfere with sperm production and testosterone secretion.
In recent years, we have witnessed a growing interest in the prevention of the loss of reproductive efficacy in young men and women as a result of cancer or its treatments. The techniques used to ensure that cancer survivors are able to reproduce and conceive come under oncofertility preservation.
Techniques used for Oncofertility preservation
There are multiple treatment options which exist that can increase your future fertility potential. A fertility or endocrinology expert must be immediately consulted after the diagnosis of cancer, and preferably prior to chemotherapy or pelvic radiation.
Some of the fertility techniques used are:-
- Shielding of the genital and pelvic region with a lead apron during radiation therapy to minimize the damaging effects of ionizing radiation on the ovaries and testes.
- Ovarian Transposition to physically move the ovaries out of the pelvis through surgical techniques in cases where pelvic radiation is required.
- Oocyte cryopreservation allows women to have their eggs preserved for future use.
- Embryo and Sperm Banking can also preserve embryos and semen samples to be used later.
- Tissue banking where ovarian cortex or testicular tissue is surgically removed and frozen. This tissue can later be transplanted back into the body and hormonally stimulated to produce eggs and sperm with some success when the patient is ready to conceive.
Gamete donation and surrogacy are some of the other treatment options for people whose reproductive ability have damaged beyond repair due to cancer treatment.