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Oncofertility Offers Hope

Helping young cancer patients to have their own children…someday.

“You’ve got cancer.” Those are three words nobody wants to hear. And if you are a teenager or young adult with a bucket list of goals and dreams for your future, those words can be really scary. So too, if you are the parent of a young child who has been diagnosed with cancer, the news can be especially upsetting.


While the most important and immediate concerns should be related to fighting—and beating—the cancer, there are other considerations that come into play. Concerns about fertility, for example, are very common and critical, particularly in planning for “life after cancer.”

It’s important to understand that while cancer treatments can be very effective, they also can cause side effects that harm the ability to reproduce. According to the American Cancer Society, the loss of reproductive function is sometimes temporary. However, many people do not regain fertility after cancer treatments.

Cancer patients and their loved ones can benefit greatly by learning about the fertility risks and available options before treatment begins. Here are some important facts everyone who is facing a cancer diagnosis should know about the emerging field of oncofertility.

What is oncofertility?

Oncofertility is a new term that describes a team approach to assessing, planning and providing fertility preservation options to young men, women and children who have been diagnosed with cancer—and other serious diseases—and who must undergo treatments that threaten their fertility. In oncofertility, a reproductive endocrinologist like myself will work together with the cancer care team to preserve the patient’s fertility while their disease is being treated.

It’s important to know the facts. And your options.

Cancer survival rates among children and young adults have steadily increased over the past 40 years. As a result, “life after cancer” is a reality for many young people who can happily plan for a future that includes brilliant careers and a family of their own someday.

Although it is true that some cancers affect the reproductive organs, such as the uterus or testicles, most cancers do not directly cause infertility. Instead, infertility is caused by the treatment for cancer. Some surgeries and many forms of chemotherapy or radiation therapy to the pelvis may severely compromise ovarian or uterine function, harm eggs, or damage sperm quantity and motility.