Ovarian cancer: Here's what aspiring mothers can do to preserve their fertility

Updated on Jul 17, 2022 04:08 PM IST

The approach for maintaining fertility in persons with ovarian cancer differs from person to person, depending on the type of malignant cells, when the disease was discovered, how far it has gone and the treatment. Here's what aspiring mothers with ovarian cancer can do to preserve their fertility

Here's what aspiring mothers with ovarian cancer can do to preserve their fertility (Anna Tarazevich)
Here's what aspiring mothers with ovarian cancer can do to preserve their fertility (Anna Tarazevich)
ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi

Women have a pair of glands called ovaries that are laden with eggs, which when fertilised by a sperm can form an embryo. Ovaries help maintain the levels of different hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone that are important for maintaining homeostasis throughout their lives but the organ is prone to illnesses like cancer.

Ovarian cancer, though not the commonest amongst the genital cancers, is usually seen in the perimenopausal age but recently in the last decade there has been a surge in the incidence of ovarian cancers in women from the reproductive and adolescent age. Due to good diagnostic modalities like 3D and 4D ultrasound, MRI and blood markers, it is easier to diagnose these tumours at an early stage which enhances the clinician’s ability to offer a patient suffering from ovarian cancer with certain fertility options for fertility preservation.

However, sometimes ovarian cancer seldom manifests any significant symptoms, which might lead to a delayed diagnosis and as a result, treatment problems. The approach for maintaining fertility in persons with ovarian cancer differs from person to person, depending on the type of malignant cells, when the disease was discovered and how far it has gone in either or both ovaries, as well as the treatment recommended.

Diagnosis of ovarian cancer leaves an affected woman with a huge psychological impact primarily in a state of shock, uncertainty about the future and depression being affected by the disease. Handling such patients with counselling is equally imperative and offering them a fertility option depending on the stage of the disease, the type of the tumour, the degree of differentiation of the disease, the age of the patient, whether the patient has been affected by other benign ovarian conditions like PCOD or endometriosis or any other previous ovarian surgeries.

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Kshitiz Murdia, CEO and Co-Founder of Indira IVF, revealed, “If the condition is detected early on, egg freezing is a proven method for preserving eggs that may be retrieved before undergoing treatments like chemotherapy. Modern medicine, on the other hand, has discovered techniques to convert germ cells into eggs, which are primordial, basic entities. After the illness has been treated, the eggs acquired through these treatments can be utilised by the female herself; IVF becomes essential in this case.”

He suggested, “In the case of an advanced prognosis, the uterus may be damaged, necessitating the surgical resection of the ovaries and womb. Opting for surrogacy might be helpful in this situation. Women with ovarian cancer must have dialogues with doctors about their objectives and parenthood dreams, regardless of the amount of the disease's progress.”

According to Dr Ranjana Dhanu, Consultant Gynaecology and Obstetrics at Khar's PD Hinduja Hospital & Medical Research Centre, “In view of early diagnosis, unilateral ovarian sparing surgery can be performed hence enhancing the fertility potential. The second option that can be offered to a patient is cryo preservation of the oocytes or a patient who is married can also opt for embryo preservation. Oocyte storage and embryo storage requires a certain amount of stimulation, requiring at least a period of two to three weeks and this can best be planned when a patient is going through her counselling for further care of the primary disease (ovarian cancer) that the eggs can be stored for future use.”

She shared, “Women with previous familial history and prevalence of the BRCA1 are also advised to empirically see a fertility specialist in order to consider the option of fertility preservation. With advances in assisted reproduction, it has been possible to see some light at the end of the tunnel for younger women who have been affected by the disease to have an opportunity to prove their fertility by themselves or in cases where they have to undergo hysterectomy, the eggs can be used in the form of surrogacy for helping them achieve their reproductive goals.”

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