To allow couples and individuals to rest assured that their future family is secure in circumstances where they want to first focus on work, haven’t met the right partner yet or have been diagnosed with cancer – Vitalab offers a selection of high quality fertility preservation services.
Egg freezing, the literal freezing of a woman’s reproductive eggs, offers an option for single women to preserve their family dream. Once a woman has passed her prime reproductive age (generally between the ages of 26 and 35) her body will gradually cease production of high quality fertile eggs, and thereby lowering the possibility of pregnancy. Single women diagnosed with cancer can freeze their eggs before undergoing chemotherapy or radiationtherapy, which can often damage the ovaries and induce premature menopause, which significantly harms one’s fertility. The patient’s ovaries are stimulated in order to make more eggs available at a given time, before retrieving the eggs, which is done under anaesthesia with no stitches or cuts involved.
Embryo freezing follows the same process as egg freezing to retrieve the eggs, which are then fertilised with sperm and frozen after it develops into embryos. This preservation method can be used to secure the fertility of a cancer patient, male or female, who has a partner, before undergoing therapy. However, some single women choose to create embryos that are fertilised with anonymous donor sperm. Frozen embryos yield high pregnancy success rates and are a common part of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) practice.
*The egg and embryo freezing processes can take up to six weeks, but for cancer patients it only takes two weeks. With the egg freezing technology that Vitalab uses, multiple eggs can be retrieved, fertilised to become embryos and frozen in temperatures of minus 196 degrees Celsius. If a patient has an estrogen sensitive cancer, their medication will be altered to reduce the estrogen’s effect of accelerating the growth of the cancer. Female cancer patients can also receive a form of a gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist (GnRHa), such as Lupron, to maintain a woman’s ovarian function while undergoing cancer treatment.
Sperm freezing is the procedure of freezing sperm samples to be stored for future use. Most commonly, men diagnosed with cancer use this method to preserve their fertility before getting therapy to fight their illness. Sperm can be stored in liquid nitrogen, which preserves it indefinitely, even in circumstances where the sample is of poor quality after already being effected by the cancer itself.
Ovarian Tissue Freezing
Ovarian tissue freezing involves harvesting the tissue on the outer membrane of the ovary (which is where all the eggs are located) through laparoscopic surgery and freezing it. Before transplanting the tissue onto the woman’s non-preserved ovary with very simple stitching, it is thawed. After the ovary starts to function normally, the woman can conceive naturally without any need for IVF. Although this method has been done successfully, it is still very preliminary. Cancer patients would need to undergo this surgery before starting therapy, however, they have to keep in mind that there have been reports of residual cancer cells in frozen tissue that may bring back the cancer after implantation. This method of fertility preservation is also recommended for young girls who have been diagnosed with cancer before they have hit puberty.
Ovarian Transposition Surgery
Ovarian transposition is a surgical procedure that preserves the ovarian function in female cancer patients who are at risk of ovarian failure before receiving radiation therapy in the abdominal or pelvic areas. With this procedure, the ovaries are moved outside of the radiation portal to minimise the amount of exposure to the radiation.