by Dr. Andrea Reh
Because we have great doctors and surgeons like N.E.D. who are fighting cancer so aggressively, patients not only survive, but now can enjoy life after cancer. As a Reproductive Endocrinologist and Infertility Specialist, we help women and couples who are struggling with infertility to have a family. After I saw N.E.D. the Movie, I wanted to add my own “What every woman should know about her fertility after cancer.”
Every woman should know that, YES! Having a family IS possible after cancer and cancer treatment. While every woman and every diagnosis is different, women can also take steps with egg or embryo banking that preserves their fertility in time before they undergo treatment that might threaten their fertility. Together with their oncologist, when you decide you are ready and healthy again to become a mother, you can try to conceive on your own, or use your stored eggs or embryos. If you did not have the opportunity or time to bank eggs or embryos before your treatment, having a family may still be possible after cancer with advancements in IVF or even using an egg donor.
One of my patients, “A.N.”, was a 37-year old female without any children. She had just been diagnosed with cancer and was facing chemotherapy in the near future. We would expect chemotherapy to stop her periods, and at her age, it would be uncertain whether her periods would resume or whether she would be fertile after treatment. She and her husband came to us for consultation, and together with her oncologists we chose to harvest eggs, create embryos, and freeze them for the future. After she received treatment for cancer, she and her doctors decided it was safe for her to become pregnant. At this time, she would have been otherwise infertile, but in using her frozen embryos she went on to have a healthy baby girl.
Another patient of mine, “E.K.”, was a 34-year old recently diagnosed with endometrial cancer who was facing a hysterectomy and chemotherapy in the near future. Before treatment, we were able to harvest her eggs, create embryos, and freeze them for the future. These embryos will be transferred into another woman known as a gestational carrier, who will carry her pregnancy for her. So even though she has had a hysterectomy, she will likely still be able to be a mother to her own genetic child.
For women facing a new diagnosis of cancer, you are scared. Scared that you cannot live your own life, and also scared that you may not be able to become a mother after treatment. There are options. There is hope. What every woman should know, is that with advancements in reproductive medicine such dreams can and DO become a reality.