Infertility is often a side effect of life-saving cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. CRM’s medical fertility preservation program assists women who wish to retain their potential to have children in the future by freezing (cryopreserving) their eggs (oocytes) or fertilized eggs (embryos) for use in future pregnancies. Ovarian tissue may also be preserved depending on patient circumstances.
Depending on their circumstances, patients may choose to freeze eggs or fertilize the eggs and freeze embryos before beginning cancer treatment. Sometimes this cannot be done until after completing treatment. These patients who may no longer be biologically able to achieve a pregnancy either due to advanced age or due to the damaging effects of chemotherapy or radiation to the ovaries can utilize their frozen eggs or embryos. Treatment plans and medications are individualized depending on the disease being treated as well as the anticipated risk of damage to the eggs and ovaries.
Ovarian stimulation, used to maximize the number of eggs able to be retrieved, takes approximately two weeks. Performed under mild sedation, egg retrieval is a procedure to remove the eggs from the ovaries. If the patient is freezing eggs, they are immediately frozen after retrieval.
If the patient wishes to freeze embryos, the retrieved eggs are fertilized using the sperm of a male partner or a donor and the resulting embryos are frozen.
All eggs and embryos are stored in CRM’s Embryology Laboratory.
Women who must start cancer treatment immediately and cannot take the time for ovarian stimulation may be able to undergo a minimally invasive surgery to harvest ovarian tissue. This tissue, which contains many immature eggs destined for ovulation, is frozen for future use.
After cancer treatment is complete, the tissue may be able to be transplanted back into the patient and fertility may be restored. Currently, research is being performed to investigate if the eggs from the tissue can complete development in the laboratory (in vitro maturation) rather than requiring transplantation back into the patient.
The mission of LIVESTRONG Fertility is to increase access to fertility preservation services and treatments for qualified women who are diagnosed with cancer during their reproductive years.
CRM is a LIVESTRONG Fertility program partner. Joining the nearly 400 centers across 48 states that offer discounted services to cancer survivors through this program.
CRM offers a 25% discount for patients who qualify for the LIVESTRONG Fertility program (please note that the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital facility fee and anesthesia fee cannot be discounted). CRM’s fertility preservation services are also among the most affordable in the tri-state area.
LIVESTRONG Fertility also offers assistance to qualified female applicants by providing access to fertility medications donated by EMD Serono, Inc.
For more information and to apply for financial assistance, please visit the LIVESTRONG Fertility website.
Ferring Pharmaceuticals and Walgreens have developed the Heart Beat program to offer select fertility medications at no cost in order to ease the financial burden for fertility preservation patients. For more information about this program, visit the Heart Beat website.
CRM is constantly seeking to improve options for patients requiring fertility preservation. CRM has over 100 ongoing research protocols, including the aforementioned research related to ovarian tissue cryopreservation and in vitro egg maturation.
Breast cancer patients are invited to participate in research studies assessing different ways of stimulating egg development, including use of Letrozole, a medication that reduces the level of estrogen produced by developing eggs.
Dr. Zev Rosenwaks, CRM’s Director, and Dr. Glenn Schattman are founding board members of the Alliance for Fertility Preservation. The mission of the Alliance for Fertility Preservation (the Alliance) is to educate and empower patients diagnosed with cancer to make the best decisions regarding fertility preservation prior to treatment and infertility management after treatment. The alliance also endeavors to promote dialogue between patients and health care providers in an effort to optimize expectations and care.
For more information, contact the Fertility Preservation Coordinator at (646) 962-5450.