, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 17-27

Preservation of female fertility during cancer treatment

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Abstract

Improvements in the success of cancer treatments have resulted in increased awareness of the long-term effects of treatment, of which gonadal failure is the most significant. Thus, preservation of fertility potential has become a major goal and could be realized by preventing ovarian toxicity or by cryopreservation of reproductive cells/tissues. This review aimed to critically discuss the current protocols for the management of chemotherapy-inducced/radiotherapy-induced premature ovarian failure (POF). A medical approach using the gonadotropin-releasing hormone analog (GnRHa) may act to protect the gonads during radiation and/or chemotherapy by preferentially steering cells into cell cycle arrest with a decline in responsibility to the chemotherapeutic agents. Ovarian protection by GnRHa cotreatment against chemotherapy can enable the preservation of future fertility in survivors and prevent the bone demineralization and osteoporosis associated with hypestrogenism and POF. In vitro fertilization of retrieved oocytes could enable embryo freezing in some patients. Embryo cryopreservation is considered standard practice and widely available, but may seldom be used because of a lack of a male partner, the need to postpone cancer therapy for a few weeks and the possibility that an estrogen rise may be undesirable in sensitive cancer patients. Improvement in oocyte cryopreservation may offer additional possibilities; the prolonged culture of primordial and primary follicles in vitro is still unfeasible. Currently, the cryopreservation of ovarian cortex, which hosts thousands of immature follicles, is an investigational method, but has the advantage of requiring neither a sperm donor nor ovarian stimulation. Fertility preservation is often possible in women undergoing cancer treatment. To preserve the full range of options, fertility preservation procedures should be considered as early as possible during therapy planning.