We offer a Fertility Preservation Service for patients diagnosed with cancer and also for patients who wish to store eggs for social reasons.
Patients diagnosed with cancer
As cancer treatments improve, the problems faced by survivors of cancer and the complications of cancer therapies become more important. Many survivors are young and are diagnosed and treated before they have children. Malignancies and their treatment can significantly affect the chance of a patient having a child in the future. We therefore realise how important it is that all patients are able to discuss the effects of treatment with a fertility expert and explore whether they are able store eggs, sperm or embryos before their cancer treatment, which could be used to help them have their own biological child in the future
Patients in this situation are faced with two devastating diagnoses simultaneously – malignancy and infertility. Having to face both diagnoses can cause huge distress and therefore all patients will be offered an appointment to see one of our counsellors if they wish.
At Saint Mary’s Assisted Reproductive Treatment we have stored sperm for men facing cancer treatment for many years. Our Fertility Preservation Service for women started in 2008. We appreciate that cancer treatment often has to start very quickly and in these cases we aim to see patients within one week.
We offer NHS treatment to eligible patients and continue to work with health care purchasers to ensure that treatment is available to as many patients as possible. Whilst some patients may not be eligible for NHS funded treatment, we can still see these patients for a consultation within the NHS and give advice.
After oncology treatment
Many patients present for fertility investigations after cancer treatment. Assessment can be carried out as for any couple. If a woman continues with a menstrual cycle after chemotherapy, we advise her to try to conceive as soon as possible (after discussion with the oncologists) as she has a higher risk of premature ovarian failure. Additionally, investigation and treatment should be carried out without unnecessary delay. However, it is important to wait at least nine months after the completion of treatment before assessing resultant ovarian reserve.
Our patients have found counselling extremely helpful and this service is available to all patients referred to Saint Mary’s.
Social egg freezing
At Saint Mary’s Assisted Reproductive Treatment we offer egg-freezing. It is a procedure where your eggs are vitrified and stored for use in the future when it is the right time for you to try to conceive.
Some of the reasons why women want to delay conceiving are:
For some women now is not the right time to have children and they want to store their eggs so that they can children later in life, without worrying that the quality of their eggs has declined due to age.
In some case when patients are receiving Ivf treatment eggs are vitrified in an emergency if there is a problem producing a semen sample.
Prior to vitrifying your eggs you will need a clinical consultation where we will go through a full explanation of the process involved, including the chance of pregnancy, survival of the process and risks. It is also advisable to see one of our counsellors to discuss the implications of egg vitrification.
Once you start a treatment cycle, the initial phase of stimulation is very similar to the standard IVF cycle. The development of the eggs is carefully monitored and once the eggs have reached the correct size egg collection takes place under sedation. Once your eggs are collected they are vitrified and stored the same day.
When you decide you wish to use your eggs, they are warmed and fertilisation is attempted using intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Where possible, any embryos created will be allowed to divide to the blastocyst stage and the best one transferred. Any other suitable blastocysts will be vitrified and stored for future use.