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- Fertility and cancer
- Female options after cancer treatment
Female options after cancer treatment
Fertility options after cancer treatment may be limited. Your ability to become pregnant may depend on the effects of cancer treatment on fertility, your age and whether you have been through premature ovarian insufficiency or early menopause. Before trying to conceive, you may want to have your fertility checked. See Assessing fertility after treatment.
Learn more about:
- Natural conception
- Using your own frozen eggs or embryos
- Donor eggs and embryos
- Finding information about the donor
- Using donor eggs
- Using donor embryos
You may be able to conceive naturally after finishing cancer treatment. This will only be possible if your ovaries are still releasing eggs and you have a uterus. Your medical team will do tests to assess your fertility and check your general health, and will encourage you to try for a baby naturally if they think it may be possible for you to get pregnant.
Depending on the treatment you’ve had, your doctors may advise you to wait between six months and two years before trying to conceive. Discuss the timing and suitable contraception with your specialist.
Even if your periods return after chemotherapy or pelvic radiation therapy, there is a high risk of early menopause. If menopause is permanent, it means you will no longer be able to conceive naturally.
If your ovaries are still working, you may be able to freeze eggs or embryos after treatment ends for later use.
If you have early menopause after cancer treatment and have a healthy uterus, you may be able to use donor eggs or embryos to try for a pregnancy. Donors cannot be paid but may receive reimbursement for medical expenses.
It can be difficult to find donor eggs and embryos, and you may have to go on a waiting list. You may be able to use donor eggs or embryos from overseas, however, there are strict rules about importing them into Australia.
Laws about donor eggs and embryos vary across Australia and may change. Talk to your fertility specialist or a lawyer to obtain specific advice for your situation.
Finding information about the donor
In Australia, clinics can only use eggs and embryos from donors who agree that people born from their donation can find out who they are. This means that the donor’s name, address and date of birth are recorded.
All donor-conceived people are entitled to get identifying information about the donor once they turn 18.
In some states, a central register is used to record details about donors and their donor-conceived offspring. Parents of donor-conceived children, and donor-conceived people who are over the age of 18, can apply for information about the donor through these registers. In other states and territories, people who want information about their donor can ask the clinic where they had treatment.
It is important to discuss possible issues for donor-conceived children with a fertility counsellor.
You will need to find your own donor eggs. Your fertility clinic may have an egg bank or you can ask a family member or friend to donate eggs. All donors are required to have blood tests, answer questions about their genetic and medical information, and have counselling.
After the eggs are collected from the donor, they are combined with sperm from your partner or a donor using IVF. The embryo will be frozen for a few months and then screened for any infectious diseases before it is transferred into your uterus.
Egg donation is more expensive than standard IVF, as you may have to cover hormone-related costs to encourage egg production in the donor.
Donor embryos usually come from people who still have frozen embryos after they’ve had successful IVF treatment. Embryos may be donated for ethical reasons (instead of discarding the embryos) or compassionate reasons (to help someone with infertility).
If you use a donated embryo you will take hormones to prepare your uterus for pregnancy. When your body is ready, the embryo will be thawed and implanted into your uterus using IVF.
Other options such as transplants of the uterus are being studied in clinical trials. Talk to your doctor about the latest research and whether there are any suitable clinical trials for you.
Dr Ying Li, Gynaecologist and Fertility Specialist, RPA Fertility Unit, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW; Dr Antoinette Anazodo, Paediatric and Adolescent Oncologist, Sydney Children’s Hospital and Prince of Wales Hospital, NSW, and Lead Clinician for Youth Cancer NSW/ACT; Paul Baden, Consumer; Dawn Bedwell, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland; Maurice Edwards, Special Counsel, Watts McCray Lawyers, NSW; Helena Green, Clinical Sexologist and Counsellor, InSync for Life, WA; Dr Michelle Peate, Program Leader, Psychosocial Health and Wellbeing Research (emPoWeR) Unit, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Royal Women’s Hospital, The University of Melbourne, VIC; A/Prof Kate Stern, Gynaecologist and Reproductive Endocrinologist and Head, Fertility Preservation Service, Royal Women’s Hospital Melbourne, The University of Melbourne, VIC; Prof Jane Ussher, Chair, Women’s Health Psychology, Translational Health Resea ch Institute (THRI), School of Medicine, Western Sydney University, NSW; Renee Van Den Bosch, Consumer.
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