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Pregnancy and cancer care

Resources and options to preserve your fertility before and after cancer.

Cancer treatment can impact your fertility, however, there are ways to preserve your ability to have children. Talk with your doctor or care coordinator about your options.

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What to expect

The IVF cycle usually lasts about 2-3 weeks. It begins by a woman taking injectable medicines which stimulate her ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Eggs mature in follicles in your ovaries. Ultrasound monitoring is used to follow follicle growth. When your eggs are ready, your doctor will use transvaginal ultrasound to obtain your eggs and fluid. This is done by guiding a needle through your vagina into your ovary follicles.

After your eggs are removed, they can be preserved through:

  • Embryo freezing. Your eggs are fertilized in the lab, frozen and stored as embryos.

  • Egg freezing. Your unfertilized eggs are frozen that day. This method requires the same amount of time as embryo freezing.

Good to know

Embryo freezing has the highest success – a pregnancy rate of about 40 to 50 percent. The success of IVF depends on your age and how many eggs you have.

There are many steps that must go perfectly to successfully harvest, fertilize, freeze, thaw and implant an embryo. It is possible that you won’t get pregnant.

Your male partner will need to undergo sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing and get a semen analysis.

Good for treating

Fertility medicines are similar to menstrual cycle hormones. During IVF, the goal is to keep your estradiol hormone level low. The medicines used to do this are similar to the medicine used to treat breast cancer, including tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors.

Estrogen levels are raised for a short period of time during IVF. If having high levels of estrogen is not good for you, it is possible that getting pregnant may not be recommended during cancer treatment.

Some cancers are hormone-sensitive. This means that estrogen and progesterone could cause the growth of some cancers such as breast cancer.

If you have a hormone-sensitive cancer you may still be able to safely carry and deliver a healthy baby. If your oncologist feels that pregnancy is safe for you, he or she will refer you to a fertility doctor if you are medically ready to have fertility treatments.

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