Fertility preservation is the process of saving or protecting eggs, sperm or reproductive tissue. This is done so you can use them to have biological children in the future. Health conditions like cancer can affect a man or woman's fertility.
If you will be treated for cancer or another health condition that can affect fertility, here are 3 things you should do:
- Talk to your doctors about your desire to have children biologically. Ask what can be done to preserve fertility before your treatments start.
- Know your options. For men, sperm banking, sperm extraction and protecting the testicles from radiation may be options. Sperm banking is when men freeze their sperm until they need them. For men who have trouble ejaculating or have limited sperm in their semen, sperm extraction may help. That's when a health professional removes sperm from a part of the testicle to fertilize a woman's egg in the short-term or to freeze them for a later time. Shielding the testicles during radiation treatments lower the likelihood that sperm will be damaged. For women, options may include freezing eggs or embryos (eggs fertilized with sperm). Another option is gonadal shielding or covering the pelvic area with a shield to protect ovaries from radiation. Ovarian transposition may also be an option. This is when a doctor performs a minor surgery to move the ovaries and sometimes the fallopian tubes from the area that will receive radiation to an area that will not receive radiation.
- Understand your insurance coverage for fertility preservation. If you do not have health insurance, ask about the costs associated with each fertility preservation option.
Mark Fallick, MD, is a urologist with New Jersey Urology in Vorhees, N.J.