Today, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is practically a household word. But not so long ago, it was a mysterious procedure for infertility that produced what were then known as "test-tube babies." Louise Brown, born in England in 1978, was the first such baby to be conceived outside her mother's womb.
Unlike the simpler process of artificial insemination -- in which sperm is placed in the uterus and conception happens otherwise normally -- IVF involves combining eggs and sperm outside the body in a...
Chemotherapy-induced menopause occurs in 10% to 50% of women younger than 40, and in 50% to 94% of women over 40. Following chemotherapy, a woman may experience months or even years of irregular ovarian function. Depending on a woman's age and the type of chemotherapy used, normal ovarian function may return.
Options for Preserving Fertility
Women with breast cancer who wish to start or expand a family should consider options to preserve fertility before undergoing cancer treatment.
Techniques to preserve fertility include:
Freezing eggs or embryos
Freezing ovarian tissue: In 1999, for the first time, re-implanting previously frozen ovarian tissue restored a woman's ovarian function. This technique is not widely available but has the advantage of no ovarian stimulation.
Egg donation: A woman receives eggs from a donor that are fertilized and implanted once cancer treatment is completed.
Hormonal suppression of the reproductive organs. This approach involves using hormones to place the reproductive organs in a dormant (inactive) state, shutting down your body's production of eggs. This process seems to protect the cells that develop into eggs (germ cells) from damage by chemotherapy. This approach is still being investigated.