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  • For those of us with ovarieswe have the most eggs we will

  • ever have while were still in the womb. Were born with about a million of them and  

  • that number only goes down from there. Well release about 300-500 of those eggs  

  • throughout our lifetime, but there are lots of  things that can make that number even smaller

  • One of those things is cancer.

  • Now, cancer is a really scary thing and it’s

  • an overwhelming wave of tests, diagnoses, and  treatment options. And then there’s the cherry  

  • on top of all the extra stuff there is to worry  about...stuff like fertility.

  • -What happens is that the chemotherapy

  • can cause the eggs that are  currently active in the ovary to undergo basically  

  • cell death. And that can lower a person's egg  supply more quickly than what happens naturally

  • -The word chemotherapy actually means  any drug used to treat any kind of illness,  

  • but in the context of cancer treatment, these are  drugs that are targeted at eradicating cancer cells

  • And these drugs may not only affect active eggs  but can also degrade the backup pool of eggs

  • that’s stored in the ovaries for future ovulation. And chemo isn’t the only kind of  

  • cancer treatmentthe two other most  common are radiation and surgery

  • Then there’s options like immunotherapyhormone therapy, bone marrow transplants,  

  • and lots of other emerging medicines. Radiation in the pelvic area can also  

  • directly harm your eggs.

  • And any destruction of hormone-regulating parts  of the body, like the ovaries, can trigger some  

  • pretty drastic changes, including the onset  of menopause-like symptoms before age 40. 

  • But the effect of any of these treatments  really depends on the kind of cancer  

  • you may be dealing with. Which in Betty’s  case, it was acute lymphocytic leukemia

  • -My oncologist told me if I would  have not been diagnosed for two more weeks,  

  • I probably would have not survivedThat's how quickly it was escalating

  • -Every kind of cancer is relatively unique, so  treatment is going to be tailored to   

  • the stage and type of the disease and the  age and general condition of the patient

  • So after hearing all of that, it’s  understandable that fertility planning  

  • is a pretty actually big part of someone’s cancer journey.   

  • My oncologist explained that the chemo would

  • potentially put me in early menopause or give  me issues conceiving. So he was very clear  

  • on explaining to me what could happen and the possibility  

  • of me having a child.   

  • -Some of you may already know this,

  • but in my last relationship, my long-term partner  was diagnosed with a really aggressive lymphoma

  • Everything I just said about ovaries is also  true for male reproductive equipment. Chemotherapy  

  • can damage sperm and sperm-generating  parts of the body, so before treatment,  

  • he needed to consult a fertility specialist. For those with testes, that means deciding  

  • whether you want to collect and storesperm sample. But for those with ovaries,  

  • it’s a little more complicated.   

  • -There are a variety of options.

  • The most commonly used option is egg freezingwhere a patient undergoes an ovarian stimulation  

  • cycle to try to get all the eggs that are present  in the ovaries for that month to grow together

  • We would then do a procedure that's under sedation  to remove those eggs from your ovaries. Just using  

  • a needle that goes through the vagina takes about  15 to 20 minutes and you go home the same day.  

  • And we can freeze all of the mature eggs that we  get to use in the future either to carry yourself  

  • or to be carried by someone else.

  • -And that whole process takes time,  

  • like at least a couple of weeks.

  • An even more recent option  is ovarian transposition.  

  • This is where the ovaries are actually  surgically moved higher up into the abdomen  

  • so theyre out of harm’s way if radiation is being  aimed in that direction.

  • The ovaries are moveable! Who knew, huh? Not me

  • But sometimes, things actually progress too fast. Some  patients, like Betty, don’t  

  • have the luxury of time to explore all options  before they urgently need to start treatment

  • for their cancer.

  • -Unfortunately, due to the rate of the cancer  growing and how fast I was deteriorating,  

  • I was given the option to freeze my eggs,   but it would postpone treatment for two months  

  • which would make my prognosis very bleak. So me and my ex husband made a decision  

  • to go ahead with treatment  because we already had our newborn

  • -It’s a tough decision to face. Luckily, there are  some exciting advancements on the horizon, like... 

  • artificial ovaries. This is where the patient’s  own ovarian tissue is removed and frozen,

  • a technique known as cryopreservation.

  • It can then be used to create a scaffold, seeded with their own ovarian follicles.

  • And all of this can then be prompted to  function as an ovary and produce eggs  

  • outside of the body. Were livinin the future, dude

  • It can then be transplanted back into the  body, where the hope is that it could resume  

  • function as a normal ovary again. This research is still in its early  

  • stages and has only been trialed in lab  animals so far, but it’s a promising future option

  • Other experimental ovarian  cryopreservation techniques have  

  • been tried successfully have resulted in live human births.

  • Plus, something that’s just as  important as these advancements  

  • is who exactly will have access to them. -A patient has to be aware that these services  

  • exist, if they don't ask for it themselves. And  so empowering our cancer specialists to know about  

  • the ways that we can assist patients to preserve  their fertility, and just kind of spreading the  

  • knowledge amongst the practitioners. -And we can’t forget that all of this  

  • costs money. -I wish I could say that fertility preservation  

  • was free. But there's also some great  societies out there that provide grants for  

  • patients to help offset some of the costs. And so  we try to meet patients, you know, kind of where  

  • they are to get them the care that they want.   

  • And depending on the kind of cancer,

  • and the kind of treatment, experts recommend  that cancer survivors wait anywhere from six months to  

  • five years before trying for kids. The waiting period reduces the chance of a  

  • cancer recurrence and gives the patient adequate  time to recover, both physically and otherwise

  • There are lots of folks who complete  cancer treatment and go on to have  

  • low-risk pregnancies and  healthy children. Like Betty,  

  • who got pregnant shortly after getting the green  light from her doctor without any fertility help

  • -I never expected to get cancer as a new  mom at 30. I never expected to have a  

  • second child after I was told that I possibly  could not have another child. So stay positive,  

  • do your research, figure out what you want for  your life and your future and where you stand  

  • and always always advocate for yourself because  no one else is going to do it better than you

  • -If you or someone you know is looking  for support when dealing with blood  

  • cancer, check out The Leukemia and Lymphoma  Society. They provide patients with free,  

  • one-on-one support and opportunities to speak  with highly trained oncology professionals.  

  • To learn more about them, check out the  resources weve left in the description below

  • Thanks so much for watching Body Language, if  you want more topics from the series,  

  • check out season one here. If there are any other health topics

  • you think we should cover, let us know in the comments below.

  • I really hope you learned something new in this video and I'll see you next time.

For those of us with ovarieswe have the most eggs we will

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A1 cancer treatment fertility patient chemotherapy betty

The Game Changing Science to Preserve Fertility

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    Summer posted on 2021/11/26
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