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Now, women cancer patients can ‘preserve’ their fertility

Cancer treatment, that involves surgical removal of the uterus or ovaries, can damage a woman’s fertility.

Written by Pritha Chatterjee | New Delhi | Published: September 8, 2014 2:11:48 am

Women with cancer who face infertility problems, as a result of treatment for the disease, now have a ray of hope with fertility specialists and oncologists coming together under the Fertility Preservation Society India (FPSI), the first Indian branch of the global Oncofertility Consortium, to promote fertility preservation techniques.

Explaining the concept at the first annual FPSI conference in Delhi, Dr Nalini Mahajan, a Delhi-based fertility expert and FPSI president, said, “With early detection and treatment, there is an 80 per cent chance of surviving cancer. Sadly, patients and even oncologists are not aware that cancer therapy can compromise a patient’s ability to reproduce. Fertility preservation gives hope to young women to plan their own family in the future.”

Cancer treatment, that involves surgical removal of the uterus or ovaries, can damage a woman’s fertility. “Treatment with certain types of chemotherapy and radiation therapy may lead to infertility… Exposure of the pelvis to radiation may also lead to DNA damage in the eggs and can lead to permanent scarring of the genital organs in young children and adults. The risk of developing premature menopause after certain cancer treatments also increases with age. In some older women, susceptibility to permanent ovarian damage is high,” Dr Pankaj Talwar, secretary of FPSI, said.

Fertility preservation secures the fertile eggs or ovarian tissue before a patient undergoes cancer therapy. These eggs or tissue can help the patient to reproduce when they complete treatment.

Among the options of preservation available in India, is fast egg freezing where a woman can opt to have her unfertilised eggs frozen. Later, her eggs can be thawed and in-vitro fertilisation attempted. According to Dr Mahajan, this type of egg-freezing is gaining popularity. Other methods of fertility preservation for women, which will soon be available in Delhi, include ovarian tissue cryopreservation — in which ovarian tissue is surgically removed, frozen and later reimplanted in the body.”

“The success rate of restoring fertility in a patient, who has been cancer-free for five years, depends on the woman’s age. For younger women, there is a 30-40 per cent success rate. If the procedure is done on women who are beyond the age of 30-35, fertility potential of the eggs decreases thereby lowering the success rate,” Dr Mahajan explained.

Doctors at the conference also discussed advance technologies for fertility preservation besides legal, ethical and awareness issues.

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