Some women, depending on their age and type of cancer, may be referred to a fertility clinic for advice before starting treatment. This is to look at ways that may allow them to have a baby in the future. This is called fertility preservation. At the fertility clinic, you’ll be assessed and given information and counselling about treatments and success rates.
Fertility preservation will involve stimulating your ovaries to produce eggs which are then ‘collected’. It’s not always possible to delay cancer treatment to have this done. Sometimes, depending on the cancer and its stage, your specialist may advise you to start cancer treatment straight away.
If you have a partner who can provide sperm, your eggs can be fertilised and any embryos frozen. If you do this, it is important to remember that your partner has equal rights in deciding what happens to the embryos in future. If he withdraws the right for you to use the embryos, they will have to be destroyed.
If you have any eggs frozen, your partner has no legal rights over their future use.
If you don’t have a male partner, then you can have unfertilised eggs frozen or choose to have them fertilised with a donor’s sperm.
There is a new, experimental technique to preserve fertility. It involves removing and freezing tissue from an ovary.
Sometimes the NHS pays for the freezing and storage of eggs and embryos, but there may be a charge in some areas of the UK. You may also have to pay for donor sperm, and for new and experimental treatments that aren’t available on the NHS.
Some religions don’t agree with any type of fertility treatment. If this is an issue for you, you may want to discuss it with your partner, family or religious adviser. You could also talk in confidence with a trained counsellor or social worker.