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Gynaecological Cancers: Fertility Preservation Options That Can Help Women With Cancer To Conceive

Gynaecological cancers can take a toll on a woman's reproductive health and lead to fertility problems. However, a large number of women who suffer from such cancers are unaware of the various fertility preservation options that can help them to conceive and fulfill the dream of motherhood. Here, experts speak on how to preserve fertility in women with gynaecological cancers.

Understand Gynaecological cancers first

Gynaecological cancers occur in or on a woman's reproductive organs and even genitals. They differ from each other and impact the vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.

Below, Dr. Preethika Shetty, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Motherhood Hospitals, Kharadi, explains the different types of Gynaecological cancers:

Cervical cancer: This is the most common one and it originates from the cervix. It is caused by sexually transmitted human papillomavirus or HPV.

Uterine/endometrial cancer: It happens when the cells grow too rapidly on the lining of the uterus and spread to the uterine wall or cavity. The most common kind of uterine cancer is known as endometrial carcinoma.

Vulvar cancer: This type is seen on the outer parts of a woman's genitalia, such as the labia.

Ovarian cancer: It occurs due to the growth of cells that forms on the women's ovaries. The cells tend to multiply quickly and can invade and destroy healthy body tissue.

Dr. Preethika notes that while gynecological cancers generally happen in the elderly age group, many cases are also seen among reproductive-age women.

She adds, "A large number of women tend to delay childbearing beyond the age of 35, and gynecologic cancers impact a significant proportion of reproductive-age women who wish to preserve fertility for a future chance of childbearing. Cervical cancer is the early-stage cancer that can be seen in the 30 40 years of age group. Women with gynecologic cancers need to seek timely intervention without any delay."

Gynecological cancer treatment can impact fertility

According to Dr. Preethika, each cancer will have different symptoms and treatment options are decided depending on the cancer stage. The most common treatment options are chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery, she adds.

Dr Bharati Dhorepatil, Consultant Infertility Expert, NOVA IVF Fertility, Pune, cautions that treatment of gynecological cancer can impact the fertility of a woman if she is of reproductive age.

Also, the diagnosis of these cancers can compromise the sexual function and psychological well-being of the patients, she points out.

She explains: Surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy can help to tackle ovarian, cervical and endometrial cancers. But these can also affect the patient's fertility potential. For example, chemotherapy can destroy ovarian follicles, hamper the egg maturation process and reduce the quality of eggs. Even radiation therapy can lead to early ovarian insufficiency (IOP) in women.

"The loss of fertility can be disturbing and affect one's quality of life. Thus, it is essential to preserve fertility in women diagnosed with gynecologic cancer," asserts Dr Bharati.

Fertility preservation options for women with cancer

Dr Bharati wants women with cancer to know that they can opt for various fertility preservation options such as egg freezing and embryos cryopreservation.

She elaborates, "Egg freezing (oocyte cryopreservation) is a procedure, wherein the unfertilized eggs are harvested and frozen. Embryos Cryopreservation helps in preserving female fertility. It consists of freezing the embryos that are generated before the oncological treatment with the woman's oocytes and the partner's sperm or the donor."

Moreover, the doctors stress the importance of timely diagnosis and treatment for good outcomes.

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