An expert suggests freezing eggs before radiation for women cancer patients

Updated on: 8 February 2022, 00:24 am IST

Egg freezing may be one of the options for women cancer patients to keep up their hopes of becoming a mother. Here’s how this procedure helps!

egg freezing
Technological advancements have changed the fertility game. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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God has blessed women with the gift of bringing a newborn to this world. But, women too have a definite supply of eggs. As and when a woman ages, it gets difficult for her to conceive. With age, women tend to have fewer eggs, and also the egg quality deteriorates. The eggs produced later may contain more chromosomal abnormalities. However, for women cancer patients with infertility concerns, pregnancy may seem like a rough road.

With each menstruation cycle, eggs are anyway lost until the woman reaches the menopause stage. Although, women who have cancer, have to go through various cancer treatments and therapies including radiation and chemotherapy. The radiation to the abdomen of the patient causes severe side effects, one of which is infertility. The radiation can be harmful to the eggs in the ovaries. This can further cause minor destructions which can result in infertility.

Due to this, many women consider freezing eggs before chemotherapy and other treatments which include radiation. With egg freezing, one can also focus their energy on fighting cancer and be rest assured regarding their future plans of starting a family.

ovarian aging
Ovarian aging happens as a woman grows older. Image courtesy: Unsplash

So in short, if your cancer is detected early, consider freezing your eggs. Couples who wish to start a family can opt for this egg freezing technique at the initiation of the cancer treatment. With this, couples will have a high chance of conceiving. There are steps which help in detecting the egg reserve before suggesting egg freezing.

Women cancer patients may consider following ways for egg freezing:

1. Ovarian reserve testing

Ovarian reserve testing allows fertility experts to help predict a woman’s fertility potential. This gives an understanding of how the ovaries of the patient respond to fertility medications. These tests provide useful information about the amount of time left to conceive. It can also reveal the number of eggs that have reached an advanced stage of development. Some simple blood tests (hormonal testing), namely – AMH, E2, FSH, EFC can be used to evaluate the quality and quantity of eggs.

infertility
Your ovaries have a limited supply of eggs. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

2. Egg freezing or Embryo Cryopreservation

Depending on a woman’s ovarian reserve, she can decide if she wants to opt for egg freezing. In this process, eggs harvested from a woman’s ovaries are frozen unfertilized and are stored for later use. A frozen egg can be thawed and combined with the man’s sperm in a lab and implanted in the uterus which is called In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).

For cancer patients going through advanced treatment like radical surgery/chemo-radiation which causes irreversible damage to gonads can opt for this. Patients can choose from oocyte freezing and oocyte tissue cryopreservation.

The benefits of egg freezing

When an egg is frozen, it is frozen for a longer period in the same state and the same quality at -196 degrees Celsius. Hence, the quality of eggs does not deteriorate. Eggs can be stored for a maximum of ten years approximately. There are some elements of egg freezing that can be uncomfortable. But, the overall experience is not painful for most women. It is safe, as the procedure is done under anaesthesia.

Who can consider egg freezing?

Other than women cancer patients, everyone can consider egg freezing. Alternatively, women who plan to get married late or do not have a partner and are single, and transgenders can also opt for it The optimal age to freeze your eggs is the late 20’s and early 30’s for a higher success rate for clinical pregnancy. However, it is also common to freeze your eggs at 30-35 years of age.

Dr Sandeep Talwar Dr Sandeep Talwar

Senior Fertility Specialist, Nova Southend Fertility and IVF, Delhi

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