I have cancer and my treatment may cause infertility. Can I still have a baby?
Cancer treatment could affect your fertility. However, there are ways to preserve your fertility if you want to have the option to have children in the future. Now is the time to talk with your health care provider about your options.
What are some choices and how much may they cost?
In vitro fertilization (known as IVF) is the most common assisted reproductive technology. Your eggs can be preserved in two different ways for use after cancer treatment. They are:
embryo freezing (cryopreservation)
- The cost to have IVF and freeze embryos is about $13,000 to $15,000.
- The cost to store your embryos is free for the first year and then about $275 every 6 months.
- The best candidates for embryo freezing are married women, single women with a committed male partner or women who choose to freeze embryos using donor sperm. The male partner will need sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing and a semen analysis.
- This method has the highest chance of success for women.
egg freezing (oocyte cryopreservation)
- The cost to have IVF and freeze eggs is about $10,000.
- The cost to store your eggs is free for the first year and then about $350 every 6 months.
- The best candidates for egg freezing are single women.
The cost to thaw and use your eggs or embryos is about $7,000.
Does insurance cover IVF?
IVF is often not covered by insurance. Some insurance companies cover the diagnostic (problem solving) testing, but not the treatment itself.
You may qualify for loans through medical financing companies. It is recommended that you check with your insurance company about what is and isn't covered under your plan.
How is IVF done?
The IVF cycle begins by taking injectable medicines for about 2 to 3 weeks. These medicines are used to stimulate your ovaries to produce multiple eggs
The eggs mature in follicles in your ovaries. Ultrasound monitoring is used to follow the growth of these follicles. When the eggs are ready, the doctor uses transvaginal ultrasound to guide a needle through your vagina into the follicles in your ovaries. The doctor retrieves the eggs and fluid from the follicles through the needle.
After your eggs are removed, there are two ways to preserve them.
- Embryo freezing: Your eggs are fertilized in the lab, frozen and stored as embryos.
- Egg freezing: Your unfertilized eggs are frozen that same day. This method requires the same amount of time as embryo freezing.
How long does IVF take?
Depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle or if you are already on birth control pills, your eggs can be removed in 2 to 3 weeks.
Are fertility medicines safe to take while you have cancer?
Some cancers are hormone-sensitive. This means that estrogen and progesterone could cause the growth of some cancers such as breast cancer.
Fertility medicines are similar to your menstrual cycle hormones but just at different levels. 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 (such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors).
Estrogen levels are only elevated (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 because it is 9 month of high hormone levels.
Having a hormone-sensitive cancer doesn’t mean that fertility preservation is not an option. Most research suggests that women who have breast cancer can safely get pregnant after breast cancer treatment.
Your oncologist will refer you to see a fertility doctor if he or she feels that fertility preservation is safe for you and you are medically ready to have fertility treatments.
What is the chance for success?
The success of IVF depends on your age and how many eggs you have.
The best case scenario is a promise for the possibility of getting pregnant. There are many steps that have to go perfectly in order to harvest, fertilize, freeze, thaw and hope for implantation to happen. It is possible that you
won’t get pregnant.
The pregnancy rate for frozen embryo is about 40 to 50 percent. This rate is for a patient younger than age 35 with normal ovarian reserve.
Embryo freezing has a higher success rate than egg freezing.
Egg freezing is relatively new and may provide false reassurance.
The egg survival rate after being thawed and the fertilization rates are improving each year.
Is IVF right for me?
Deciding if IVF is right for you will depend on factors such as:
- your cancer stage
- length of your treatment
- personal choice
Minnesota Oncology has partnered with Center for Reproductive Medicine to ensure that our patients who are seeking fertility preservation are seen by a reproductive endocrinology specialist in a timely manner so that fertility preservation options can be explored To schedule an appointment or to speak with a nurse practitioner, please call 612-863-6137.
You may also want to talk with your health care provider about medicines that may protect your ovaries during some types of chemotherapy. They may increase the chance of fertility after your treatment.