Embryo banking is an option for women facing fertility problems, but women with cancer can also use the procedure to increase their chance of having children after treatment. The procedure is not without flaws, but it is one of the most trusted means of preserving/enhancing fertility currently in use.
Cancer and Fertility
Cancer may not directly inhibit or destroy fertility, but the treatments used to fight cancer do. Both chemotherapy and radiation can destroy a woman’s ability to naturally conceive. While most women concentrate on beating cancer during treatment, years later when the cancer is gone and all tests point toward a full recovery, conception may come to mind. Waiting until after cancer treatment to discuss fertility options is not the best choice. While some women maintain fertility after cancer treatment, some are left infertile or unable to conceive children without assisted reproductive technology, including donor eggs or surrogate pregnancy.
How Does Embryo Banking Work?
The woman is given injections to increase egg maturation and release. The injections last about one week. At the end of a week or so, eggs are harvested. Sperm harvested from the male partner are used to fertilize the eggs, which then develop to the embryo stage before being frozen using cryopreservation. After cancer treatment and medical clearance, the embryos can be thawed and implanted into the uterus; if the egg attaches properly, pregnancy results.
The injections used to promote multiple egg release may not be suitable for all women as they are known to facilitate growth of breast cancer cells. There is time to consider. Fast-growing forms of cancer may need to be treated immediately and the entire process of medication to harvest may take two weeks or more.
Embryo banking is one option to preserve fertility for women fighting cancer, but it is not a flawless process. Not all women are eligible for embryo banking – other options may be available.