Carolinas HealthCare System

RE: Women and Fertility

An estimated 1 in 47 reproductive age women will be diagnosed with some type of invasive cancer by age 40. Through a close partnership with CMC Women’s Institute Center for Reproduction, our REhope team of specialists is available to discuss how your cancer treatments may affect your chance of infertility or risk of future pregnancy complications. Our center provides close coordination between you, your team of physicians and cancer care providers to address reproductive concerns.

RE: Comprehensive Care for Women

Through a partnership with CMC Women's Institute, REhope helps women understand how their diagnosis and recommended treatments may affect fertility. REhope takes a multidisciplinary approach to fertility preservation by providing comprehensive care with a team of experts including:

  • Oncologists
  • Reproductive endocrinologists
  • Urologists
  • Specially-trained nurses
  • Psychologists
  • Genetic counselors
  • Certified embryology lab staff with expertise in sperm, oocyte and embryo cryopreservation

When "high tech" treatment is needed, our physicians seek out the most effective new technologies along with the expertise of highly trained andrology and embryology specialists.

Cancer and Reproduction

Many types of cancer may affect a woman's reproductive function. While men continually produce new sperm, women are born with all the eggs they will ever develop.

Both chemotherapy and radiation treatments can decrease hormone production resulting in early menopause and deplete a woman's supply of eggs, reducing chances of future pregnancy. Radiation treatments may also affect uterine function which could result in difficulties during pregnancy.

Future Fertility

The likelihood of cancer and recommended treatments affecting female fertility depends on several factors including:

  • Type of cancer
  • Recommended surgery
  • Location and dose of radiation
  • Type and amount of chemotherapy
  • Age of patient
  • Fertility potential before treatment

Common Concerns

Not all women will be infertile after cancer treatment, but many women want to know their fertility preserving options before cancer treatment begins. Reproductive specialists at the Women's Institute discuss your individual treatment plan, talk about future fertility options and answer any questions.

Concerns may include:

  • Likelihood of infertility after cancer treatment.
  • Options for fertility preservation given the type of cancer.
  • Likelihood of success and costs associated with different treatments.
  • Fertility preservation treatments such as egg or embryo banking and if they will delay cancer treatment.
  • Future pregnancy options if the patient chooses not to undergo any fertility preserving treatments.
  • Any increased risk to mother or baby during future pregnancy.
  • If pregnancy will affect risk of cancer recurrence.
  • Any risk to future children of genetically transmitted cancers.
  • Options for genetic testing prior to pregnancy.

More Options

For women at risk of infertility after cancer, fertility preserving treatments may provide options for conceiving after cancer. Several treatment options are available either before or after cancer treatment, depending on your individual situation including:

  • Surgical techniques for gynecologic cancer to preserve reproductive organs
  • Shielding or relocating the ovaries during radiation
  • Medications to protect ovarian function during chemotherapy
  • Freezing and storing eggs or embryos (fertilized eggs) for future use
  • Donor oocytes or embryos
  • In vitro fertilization
  • Ovulation induction

Your Visit

During your first visit, your physician will discuss your medical history, concerns and special needs. You and your physician will devise a plan of action specifically for you. Our resources and services include the following:

Reproductive Counseling

  • Evaluate the impact of your specific cancer treatment on future fertility.
  • Assess reproductive potential before and after treatment.
  • Discuss fertility preservation options including your treatment schedule.
  • Review future pregnancy risks.
  • Assess risk to offspring for genetically transmitted cancers.
  • Consider alternative options for family building.

Fertility Preservation Services

  • Oocyte cryopreservation
  • Sperm cryopreservation
  • Embryo cryopreservation
  • Intrauterine sperm inseminations (IUI)
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF)
  • Donor egg program

Call 704-446-5110 to speak with a REhope patient care coordinator for more information or to schedule an appointment.