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Oncofertility. When is the right time to do something?
Cancer. This difficult and complicated disease that has increased its onset of presentation, having affected millions of people worldwide, and it does not discriminates between age, race, religion, sex. It is simply a disease that we all come to live with, and our genetics predispose each one of us of having it active at any moment during our life, specially when we have a family history of this disease.
Oncofertility is a field that bridges fertility with oncology in a way to provide options for cancer survivors and giving them the chance of becoming parents in the future using their own gametes. It is known that treatments for cancer (chemotherapy, radiation and surgery) can destroy completely the gametes of female and males, making them impossible for them to conceive children in their future. And the number of cancer survivors has increased with the onset of new technologies for diagnose and treatment of the disease.
In fertility there has been an increased number of cancer patients seeking to get treatment before their chemo or radiotherapy, and a number of cancer survivors are even finding ways to become parents using gametes they stored before their treatment started. Oncofertility offers a great alternative for them.
There are techniques to freeze human gametes and tissue for long period of time, and this is an excellent option for those going through disease and wanting to become parents later. It is even an incentive to fight the disease and survive.
Every year, thousands of cryopreservations are made, providing patients with the opportunity to use their gametes in the future.
When cancer patients need to start their treatment promptly some fertility clinics do offer an emergency service for gamete freezing upon request by the oncologist. This was not possible a few years go, and now is a great way to preserve fertility before any treatment that will impair fertility. Ovarian tissue, eggs, or sperm can be stored, depending on how much time the patient has before the start of their oncology treatment, and their wishes for the future.
A consent form will be signed with specific instructions on what to do with the gametes.
Because cancer does not discriminates between age, we do know more than 20% of patients fighting this disease are on their reproductive years, most of them in their 40’s.
Innovation keeps opening doors for new opportunities in science, and these fertility preservation techniques for oncology patients offer a whole different story on the future of these patients. Unfortunately, we still a long way to win the battle against cancer, but we are certainly putting a big fight and preventing the side effects. Infertility among them.