Starting a family after cancer can be possible – here’s how

A couple looks at a laptop together.

If you have been diagnosed with cancer, you might have difficulty picturing your life after cancer. Thinking about starting or growing your family might be the last thing on your mind after your diagnosis.

But it’s important that you take time to consider how some cancer treatments can lead to temporary or permanent loss of fertility, regardless of your age or gender.

"Because young patients with cancer are surviving more than ever before, we need to start thinking about long-term complications of treatment, like infertility. Infertility is the biggest regret of pediatric and adolescent cancer survivors, and there are things we can do to help them have families after beating cancer, and planning for this starts at diagnosis,” said Dr. Amanda Saltzman, a pediatric urologist and member of the UK HealthCare Oncofertility team.

Understanding that there are fertility preservation options can be key to your emotional well-being and quality of life. You should discuss your risks with a member of our oncofertility team before treatment begins or as soon as you can. The oncofertility team at UK HealthCare is a collaboration among providers from UK Markey Cancer Center, UK Urology, DanceBlue Kentucky Children's Hospital UK Hematology/Oncology, and UK Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Oncology Program.

“As a cancer doctor, the thing I want people to know is that fertility preservation is worth talking about at any age,” said Dr. Emily Marcinkowski, a surgical oncologist and member of the UK HealthCare oncofertility team. “Survival rates with cancer are so much better than they used to be, especially in children and adolescents.”

Dr. Caryn Sorge, medical director of the AYA Program, added: "A cancer diagnosis, no matter at what age, is devastating to a patient and their family. The required treatment can impact not only their current health but can also have lasting impacts on their health and wellness down the road. Infertility is a late effect of many cancer treatments, and we are working hard as a team here at UK to provide resources and opportunities to improve fertility outcomes in our patients."

Let’s discuss what oncofertility is and how it can help you or your child lead a more fulfilling life after cancer.

What is oncofertility?

Oncofertility describes the program where we help patients facing cancer treatment explore options for fertility preservation. Our specialists are available to discuss your options and guide you to resources to help preserve your or your child's ability to have children before undergoing cancer treatment.

Some treatment options are available at UK, while other options are available to patients through UK’s relationships with regional providers. Counseling is also available to patients. Counseling is initially offered to all patients from birth up to age 40 as well as anyone outside this age range who has interest.

Before beginning this process, it is important that you understand that each patient has his/her own risk of infertility based on diagnosis and treatment plan (surgery, chemotherapy, radiation). Speak with your doctor to discuss your treatment options and determine your personal risk of infertility.

Treatment options

There are several options to consider based on age, treatment plan and presence of a partner. In some cases, carrying a pregnancy to term before therapy may also be an option. There are ways to build a family after cancer even if you cannot preserve your fertility now. Talk to your oncologist or a fertility preservation specialist. They can help you decide which option may be right for you.

Girls and women

Treatment options include: oocyte (egg) cryopreservation, embryo cryopreservation, ovarian transposition, ovarian suppression, ovarian tissue cryopreservation (OTC), donor eggs, surrogacy and adoption. You can find full descriptions of each option on our oncofertility site.

Boys and men

Treatment options include: sperm cryopreservation, testicular tissue cryopreservation (TTC), donor sperm and adoption. You can find full descriptions of each option on our oncofertility site.

Your oncology team can assist you in seeking options for fertility preservation. For more information, call the UK oncofertility team at 859-323-6679.

This content was produced by UK HealthCare Brand Strategy.