Your fertility may be affected by surgery or the treatment plan designed to treat your cancer. Age, gender, type of cancer, type and dose of treatments, and any previous chemotherapy or radiation exposure can increase your risk of infertility and reproductive dysfunction.
Fertility after treatment
Women often stop ovulating for a period of time after treatment. Some experience premature menopause. Men often stop making sperm completely or have very low sperm counts during cancer treatment and for several months after treatment. Not every male will resume normal sperm production. Infertility can be a result of surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. It is best to see a fertility specialist to monitor fertility after cancer treatment.
A small percentage of people, usually of younger reproductive age, do regain their fertility after treatment, but this may take months to years to occur and can be hard to predict for each person.
Routine testing of sex hormones and sperm or ovarian function is often needed to see if fertility will be restored. However, unexpected pregnancies have occurred, so please discuss your plan for birth control with your doctor to prevent unplanned pregnancy.
Protect your fertility before treatment
All patients interested in preserving future fertility should understand their options and risks before starting their treatment. Meeting with a reproductive endocrinologist and fertility specialist can help you define your best path forward.
Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and transplant can all affect your ability to have children after treatment.
Women often stop ovulating for several months during and after cancer treatment. Some women need to use medication that disrupts or prevents ovulation for many years after treatment. Being treated for cancer may also cause early menopause and infertility. Men often stop making sperm completely or have very low sperm counts during and after treatment. A small percentage of people, usually of younger reproductive age, do regain their fertility after treatment. This may take months to years. However, it is hard to predict for which people will or will not retain fertility. A reproductive specialist can assess fertility and let you know if assisted fertility techniques might be needed before or after cancer treatment to help with pregnancy.
For women, the standard approach is to harvest mature eggs from the ovary. Hormones are used for up to two weeks to mature the eggs before harvesting. Eggs are collected under ultrasound guided follicle aspiration. Eggs may be frozen unfertilized, or they can be fertilized (by partner or donor sperm) and stored as embryos. These eggs or embryos can be safely stored for many years until a pregnancy is desired.
For men, sperm banking is the standard approach to fertility preservation. The simplest way is to collect ejaculated sperm, but other methods can be used. Sperm can also be safely harvested from the testes and stored for many years for later use.
Adoption and other family-building options may be available after cancer treatment.
SCCA Oncoreproduction Clinic
The SCCA Oncoreproduction Clinic helps to raise awareness of available reproductive health services and expedites in-system referrals for SCCA’s male and female patients seeking information and support regarding fertility preservation. Female patients are seen in the SCCA South Lake Union clinic on Friday afternoons. Male patients are referred directly to the UWMC Roosevelt Clinic (more information located below).
Drs. Genevieve Neal-Perry and Bo Yu are board certified reproductive specialists. They provide onsite convenient consultative services for SCCA patients (60-minute visit including labs, ultrasound, gynecologic exam, counseling, etc.) and their clinical team.
The clinic is supported by a dedicated social worker who provides support by educating patients and providers about available services. She also helps patients complete financial assistance requests, to navigate referral processes, and bridges care coordination gaps for patients with fertility preservation concerns.
Insurance reimbursement and coverage of the initial appointment at SCCA
Because the initial consultation is billed under the diagnosis of family planning, most insurance plans will cover it. If you have specific questions about your benefits, please contact your health insurance.
How to make an appointment
If you are an SCCA patient and are interested in consulting with a reproductive specialist, speak with your SCCA oncologist or self-refer by calling our Oncoreproduction Clinic at (206) 606-4100 or emailing oncoreproductiveTC@seattlecca.org. Our scheduling team will provider instructions on your appointment location and how to check-in.
Cost and coverage of fertility preservation
Your follow-up appointment and fertility preservation will likely take place at Reproductive Care at UWMC Roosevelt Clinic. Costs associated with fertility preservation may or may not be covered by your insurance. Prior to your follow-up appointment, you will be able to speak with a financial counselor who will go over your benefits and the treatment costs.
You may also call your insurance directly to inquire whether infertility treatment is covered under your plan. If treatment is covered, verify if fertility preservation through an IVF cycle is a covered benefit.
Outside financial assistance may cover a portion of the costs associated with fertility preservation. Reproductive specialists can advise you on costs and financial assistance options.
SCCA Oncoreproduction Clinic
Only for patients receiving care at SCCA South Lake Union clinic (other patients will be re-directed to Reproductive Care at UWMC Roosevelt).
Location: 825 Eastlake Avenue E, Seattle, WA 98109
Phone: (206) 606-4100
Reproductive Care at UWMC Roosevelt
Location: 4245 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105
Phone: (206) 598-4225
UW Medicine Male Fertility Lab
Location: 4225 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105
Phone: (206) 598-6358
Helps patients understand fertility risks, options and allows access to fertility preservation discounts.
Phone: (855) 844-7777
The Oncofertility Consortium
Phone: (866) 708-3378
If you or your loved one is interested in consulting with a reproductive specialist, please contact your oncologist for a referral. For more information, contact the Oncoreproduction Clinic at (206) 606-4100.