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Far too often, cancer patients are unaware of the future fertility problems they may encounter after their treatments and surgeries. Encouraging these difficult conversations in advance can educate and help them understand how their body, specifically their egg and sperm count, may react to such treatments. It might be painful now to ask such questions, but they will be grateful, in the future, as their minds are set at ease when building their families and having children.
Our Cancer Care Teams in the Spokane area are very good at advocating for their patients and patient’s fertility. As a cancer patient, the only thing on your mind is the cancer and treatment of the cancer. The last thing you are thinking about is the future family you are hoping for. Advocate for yourself. Ask about your future fertility. We know these conversations are not easy to talk about but if you can prevent a window from closing, it was then worth asking about. Ask about any possible fertility problems that might take place as early as possible, either before surgery or before treatment starts. You might also want to get a second opinion, or a referral to a fertility or reproductive specialist.
Please know that the Center for Reproductive Health can get patients in for a fertility consult or second opinion, almost next day, after talking with your oncologist. Oncology referrals are first priority with Dr. Robins. He and our office understand that time is precious for our cancer patients. If Dr. Robins recommends egg preservation, typically we can have the patient’s treatment complete in 6 weeks or sooner.
Egg and Sperm Preservation allows patients going through cancer treatments to vitrify their oocytes (freeze their eggs) or sperm prior to cancer treatment – Giving the patient hope for a family in the future.
Dr. Edwin Robins, Center for Reproductive Health’s Medical Director and Board Certified Reproductive Endocrinologist answers your top questions about fertility treatment.
There are a number of fertility issues that can be addressed with medication – in particular, irregular ovulation. Normally, the menstrual cycle has a two-week period when you are getting an egg ready, then ovulating the egg, then another two-week period of time when you are waiting for the next menses and you could potentially be pregnant during that time. If you don’t have a regular menstrual cycle, it is likely that ovulation is not occurring. There can be ways to induce ovulation with medication such as Clomiphene or Clomid. It’s a pill that increases your follicle stimulating hormone and will get many people to ovulate. There are also several other oral medications that can be used for ovulation induction or other fertility treatments. At Center for Reproductive Health, we work closely with our patients to ensure we are addressing their individual diagnosis and using the most effective treatment regimen.
Let’s say that a patient’s blood work looks good, they are ovulating, there are no sperm concerns for the partner and the anatomy is working as it should, but they are still unable to get pregnant. That is likely what we call, ‘unexplained infertility.’ In these cases, we sometimes say we are going to start with an Intrauterine insemination (IUI) treatment method, but we aren’t going to do a lot of them because it eventually can become cost and time ineffective. Even when IUIs have failed, other Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART), such as In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) can be a successful treatment for patients.
ART stands for Assisted Reproductive Technology. It’s a general term for treatments such as IVF with embryo transfer. It includes fertility treatments that handle both a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm.
IVF success is dependent on a number of things, including diagnosis and age. If you look at general numbers reported from across the country, you will see that pregnancy rates through IVF decrease as patients get older. After 35 years, there is a 10-20 percent drop in pregnancy rates every two years. That’s why we say the older you are, the sooner you need to come in and seek care. Most people over the age of 35 should see a fertility specialist if they have been trying to get pregnant for 6 months without success.
I’ve been treating patients in Spokane for 20 years, but I’ve also been a patient. My wife and I got pregnant though IVF treatment many years ago, so I am very aware of how patients feel, what time means to them, how anxiety builds and depression can set in. I make it a priority to be able to see patients at every appointment, throughout their entire process. This is a very personal and often complex process, so it’s important to be able to have consistency and someone you can ask questions to at any time. Center for Reproductive Health is also the only full-service fertility clinic in the Inland Northwest. All of the procedures are done in Spokane and you won’t be required to travel.
If you would like to make an appointment with Center for Reproductive Health, they offer free consultations for new patients. You can call (509) 462-7070 or contact the expert staff online, here.