The road to parenthood: Fertility preservation for cancer patients

Cancer treatment can lead to infertility but with careful planning, there is so much that can be done to help patients become parents in the future.

In the initial aftermath of a cancer diagnosis, there is so much to process. Alongside a treatment plan for the disease, another question that many have to face is whether their treatments will impact their ability to have a child in the future. Once upon a time, certain cancer treatments meant this was often not possible. However, thanks to the advances of modern medicine, this no longer has to be the case.

How cancer can affect fertility

With the development of technology, cancer has become increasingly treatable, providing many patients with the chance of a cancer-free future. However, cancer treatment may have a significant impact on the fertility of patients and can be a real cause of concern for those wanting to have children. Thanks to the research pursued by the medical community and the introduction of fertility preservation options, patients are now often able to have hope of building their own family one day.

Expert opinion

We spoke to two fertility specialists from HealthPlus Fertility Center, Abu Dhabi, to learn more about the options that cancer patients have and how each method is best suited for different patient needs.

“Cancer treatments can significantly impact a patient’s fertility in a number of ways. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgeries can potentially cause harm to reproductive organs and minimise a person’s chances of having biological children”, says Dr. Ripal Madnani, a Reproductive Medicine and Infertility Specialist at HealthPlus Fertility Center, Abu Dhabi.

“However, with the fertility preservation options that we have today, we are able to take action to help prevent the loss of fertility and ensure that cancer patients have a good chance of being able to start their own family, either after treatment or later in life when it aligns with their life plans”, Dr. Madnani tells us.

Younger patinets

Fertility preservation options should not only be considered for adults, according to Dr. Sumi Thomas, a Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Specialist at HealthPlus Fertility Center, Abu Dhabi.

“When children and adolescents are diagnosed with cancer, they are often referred to us to consider fertility preservation options, in order to be cognisant of their future choices to build a family. We want to make sure that we are giving these patients the option to have children in the future if they wish to do so”, she says.

“We first educate the parents and patients on the full scope of the treatment. Then we are able to start the procedure, by removing and preserving samples needed for successful reproduction at a later stage. We also work with oncologists to suggest ways in which patients can consider boosting their fertility where possible once they complete their cancer treatment”.

Popular treatments

While there are multiple fertility preservation treatments, here we look at the most popular.

Egg and sperm freezing

As one of the most common and popular ways to preserve fertility, egg and sperm freezing offer patients with cancer a safety net, since it preserves their reproductive potential. The procedure itself is often carried out within a day, during which samples are collected and stored in a cryogenic unit for future use. When the patient is ready to access their samples and start a family, they can consider in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

Ovarian tissue cryopreservation

Considered an effective way to restore the function of female reproductive organs, ovarian tissue cryopreservation provides patients with the chance to normalise their hormone secretion in the future, in order to support their reproductive abilities. Once samples of ovarian tissue are removed, they can be implanted back in the patient to help restore and resume their reproductive function.


When undergoing cancer treatment, patients have their reproductive organs shielded. This process reduces the risk of damage to ovaries and testes. This option is for patients who have already undergone other fertility options to ensure that they have samples of healthy reproductive tissue to use when needed.

The importance of fertility treatment

“We have come a long way. As physicians, our message to patients recently diagnosed with cancer is to seek care from a fertility expert as soon as possible, and prior to starting treatment. As a M42 company, HealthPlus Fertility Center has invested in bringing to market innovative techniques to help meet patients’ fertility needs. These methods are data-backed and have been proven to be effective forms of treatment that will help with patient’s future plans”, stresses Dr. Madnani.

“We are always here to support our patients to make informed decisions about their current and future reproductive health. While there is a lot of psychological stress that they may be undergoing during their cancer treatment, which is important not to downplay, it is essential to manage to consider fertility treatment options at this time as it empowers patients to lead the life they dream of for themselves”, says Dr. Thomas.

A cancer diagnosis can be extremely difficult, but it does not have to prevent someone from being a parent in the future. With modern medical techniques, which are advancing rapidly, there is hope for those wishing to have their own family and to experience the joy of parenthood.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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