Cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy can reduce or eliminate fertility for female patients. Before starting therapy, women who want to increase the chance of conceiving after treatments are complete often seek out methods fertility preservation. Freezing eggs, repositioning ovaries and preserving ovarian tissue are three such procedures. Another option for women undergoing cancer treatment is gonadal suppression. Suppressing gonadal function with hormones may prevent excessive damage to the ovaries that could have otherwise caused complete, irreversible infertility.
How Does Gonadal Suppression Work?
Patients are given GnRH, gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist. It takes about 10 days of for the full effect to be realized. Luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone levels are reduced, thus causing a hypogonadal environment. In a hypogonadal state, the ovaries are protected from radiation.
Is Gonadal Suppression 100% Effective?
No, gonadal suppression is not 100% effective. As a matter of fact, clinical trial results vary widely with some reporting positive outcome and others reporting no effect on fertility. There are very few, if any, adequately controlled trials on the subject currently published.
Can Gonadal Suppression be Paired with Other Fertility Preservation Techniques?
Yes, you can have eggs harvested and frozen before starting suppression therapy. Ideally, after treatment, the suppression therapy would be stopped followed by a complete reversal of suppression and return of fertility, but this will not always be the case. Talk with a fertility specialist about your upcoming cancer treatments and all your options for fertility preservation.
Cancer is a disease that affects women in all stages of life. If you even think for one moment you may want to have children after cancer treatment you need to talk with your doctor about your options. After treatment is complete there are no preservation options available to protect your body from the effects of chemotherapy and/or radiation.