Dr. Sung Tae Kim @ Carolina Conceptions
This month is not just about Men’s Health. The first Sunday of the month celebrated National Cancer Survivor’s Day. In light of this issue, we felt we should raise awareness regarding the options available to men and women facing cancer at a young age, before they have finished creating their families.
FERTILITY PRESERVATION IN WOMEN
A woman’s fertility is very dependent on egg quality, which decreases with age. In addition, genetic abnormalities and the rate of miscarriage are significantly higher in older aged eggs (especially after 35 years of age) as compared with younger eggs.
Human egg freezing has been done since the 1980s, initially as an experimental trial. In 2012, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) declared egg freezing no longer experimental because egg freezing results from young woman have shown comparable pregnancy rates and births rates to IVF cycles using fresh eggs.
Eggs contain nutritional reserves: water, lipids, proteins, polysaccharides. When eggs are frozen, ice crystals can be formed that damage their structure. A new technique called vitrification (ultra-rapid freezing process) allows successful egg freezing without ice crystallization during the freezing process. Now, this is being widely performed in the world.
For the female cancer patient, Carolina Conceptions is currently freezing eggs using the vitrification method for fertility preservation in women who are about to start chemotherapy, radiation therapy or ovarian surgery and for those who want to store younger eggs for the future.
We offer a discounted egg retrieval service to cancer patients and work with pharmaceutical companies like Ferring, who provide many of the female fertility stimulation medications for free. For more info, please visit www.HeartbeatProgram.com.
Carolina Conceptions will also freeze eggs for women without cancer. These women may not be ready for children now –for whatever reason, and know they want to have children in the future. Since younger eggs are linked with higher fertility success rates, it is important to note this is a viable option for women interested in preserving their fertility for future use.
Egg freezing is also an option for ALL women with ethical or religious concerns, as it eliminates the creation and freezing of excess embryos after in vitro fertilization
FERTILITY PRESERVATION FOR MEN
Unlike female fertility, male fertility rarely declines with age.
Healthy men have no need to freeze their sperm for later use (as compared to healthy women who choose to freeze their eggs). But men should be aware that obesity and diseases such as diabetes can lead to low testosterone levels and poor sperm production. A semen analysis should be done to ensure normal sperm production. Men with low testosterone levels who desire fertility should not start taking testosterone supplementation because this will further reduce sperm production and can cause infertility.
For men with cancer, it is important to consider preserving fertility before undergoing treatment by freezing sperm. Chemotherapy can cause irreversible damage to the testicles and lead to permanent infertility. Sperm freezing has been done for many decades with good success, with pregnancy rates being similar between fresh and frozen sperm.
For men with or without cancer who produce very few sperm, or have obstructions in the ducts that carry sperm away from the testicles, a biopsy of the testicles can be performed. This is called Testicular Tissue Cryopreservation. A small portion of the testicular tissue is removed by a urologist and sent to Carolina Conceptions for analysis and freezing.