Cancer treatment has become increasingly advanced over the years, and medical science can do much to improve survival and quality of life. However, that may come with costs. Some treatments, especially chemotherapy and radiation therapy, can decrease a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant. If you are facing a cancer diagnosis, you may worry about your ability to start or build a family in the future. If you have a family history of cancer or are at a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer, you may also have concerns. At The Blavatnik Family – Chelsea Medical Center at Mount Sinai, we can help. We call these services oncofertility.
To provide state-of-the-art fertility preservation, we have partnered with Reproductive Medicine Associates (RMA) of New York. We recommend, if you have these types of concerns, that you discuss them with your doctor before starting treatment. They may send you to a reproductive endocrinologist, who will work with you and your cancer treatment team to help. We can schedule your fertility treatments around cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Treatments We Offer
We offer both egg freezing and embryo freezing. RMA of New York uses the most advanced approach to freeze eggs and embryos, called vitrification. This has been shown to be 80 to 90 percent effective, according to RMA of New York.
Both approaches start the same way. We begin by injecting hormone medication into you over 8 to 12 days. This stimulates your ovaries to produce multiple eggs. The more eggs you have, the better your chances of success. Once the eggs are mature, we use a needle guided by ultrasound to collect them from the ovaries (called harvesting).
Egg freezing: If you choose this approach, we flash freeze your eggs with liquid nitrogen. This brings all activity to a standstill, essentially freezing them in time so they stay young and healthy even as you get older. We can store your eggs for years. Then, when you are ready, we can thaw them in the lab, fertilize them with sperm (from your partner or a sperm bank), creating an embryo. We can then implant the embryo in your womb, or the womb of another woman (called a surrogate). From this point, the pregnancy proceeds as usual. We also call this approach oocyte preservation.
Embryo freezing: Embryos are fertilized eggs. With this approach, we take the harvested eggs and fertilize them with sperm. We use in vitro fertilization (IVF) for this. This means we manually combine your eggs with a sperm sample in a laboratory dish using a high-powered microscope. At this point, we call the fertilized zygotes. The eggs grow for a few days, becoming embryos. By the third day, we will know how many healthy embryos we have. Then we freeze them, the same as we do with eggs, to keep the embryos young and healthy.
Both freezing eggs and freezing embryos are highly effective. And they give you the reassurance to know that after cancer treatment, you can have your own biological child.