Sunday, May 28, 2017

Egg freezing; A boon for young cancer patients

Posted On : February 03,2015

It is estimated that India records 1.1 million new cancer cases every year thus, contributing to 7.8% of the global cancer burden.

What is more worrying is the fact that there has been an alarming increase particularly in the number of young cancer patients in our country. Thus, the medical fraternity is fretting over an alarming issue which often gets overlooked – preserving the fertility of such young cancer patients.

Egg freezing as a fertility preservation technique is proving to be a blessing for cancer patients in the reproductive age group said Dr. Kaberi Banerjee, a leading IVF and Infertility specialist and the Clinical Director of Advance Fertility & Gynecological Center.

Treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery or radiation during cancer treatment often destroy the eggs of the woman and lead to infertility. Depending on the risk, age of the woman, type of cancer, and treatment plan, egg freezing can be recommended as an option for women suffering from the disease.

Egg (oocyte) freezing or oocyte cryopreservation is an established method of fertility preservation in women and have yielded satisfactory results. This is proving particularly beneficial for those who do not have a partner yet. For egg freezing, mature eggs are removed and then frozen before being fertilized with sperm. The process is also referred to as egg banking. When the woman feels that she is ready to have a child, the eggs can be thawed, fertilized and implanted in the uterus.

Dr. Kaberi Banerjee, a leading IVF and Infertility specialist and the Clinical Director of Advance Fertility & Gynecological Center said, “Till some time back, the goal of the medical fraternity was to just have cancer patients survive the deadly disease. Worries about whether they would be able to bear children in future definitely took a backseat. However, in recent years, better treatment modalities and survival expectations have necessitated the need for addressing the risk of fertility among these patients following therapy and to help them make informed decisions about their future lives. The occasion of World Cancer Day is the perfect platform to raise awareness among doctors and patients about egg freezing and other fertility preservation techniques like embryo freezing, donor eggs, donor embryos.”

Dr. Kaberi Banerjee remembers a 32 year old unmarried lady with breast cancer coming to her. Before undergoing chemotherapy, 18 of her eggs were frozen. She came back 3 years later, that time married. Her uterus was prepared, eggs were defrozen and were fertilized using her husband’s sperm, by a process called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Dr. Banerjee managed to get 8 embryos out of which 3 were transferred 3 into her uterus and the other embryos were frozen. She got pregnant in that treatment cycle and now has a one year old boy. If she wishes to come back for a second child, her other embryos can be used. According to Dr. Banerjee, this is nothing less than a scientific miracle which was not possible even 5 years ago in our country!

In spite of the advancements in the field of cancer treatment, preservation of fertility in cancer patients is still in the nascent stage. More awareness is required among oncologists, fertility specialists, endocrinologists and immunologists regarding the issue. Doctors should take special care to counsel patients and their family members about the various options of fertility preservation before starting the treatment.