- While surgery for ovarian cancer usually involves removing both ovaries, depending on the extent of a woman’s cancer, a surgeon may be able to leave one ovary in place
- A woman can opt to have eggs matured and removed before surgery, to be frozen and fertilized at a later date
- In a still experimental technique, ovarian tissue may be removed and frozen; the immature eggs contained in the tissue can be matured and fertilized later
- Some chemotherapy drugs may impact fertility, so it is worthwhile asking your doctor about an alternative treatment
Options for Fertility PreservationRead More
Depending on the stage and extent of a woman's cancer, it may not be necessary to have both ovaries removed. If only one is surgically removed, the goal is for the other ovary to remain intact, and continue producing hormones and ripening eggs. In this case, the woman could be able to become pregnant after treatment ends.
Dehn has seen firsthand that these fertility-preserving techniques can work. "I've had a couple of patients with ovarian cancer who only had one ovary removed and were able to go on and have their own biological child," she says. "I've even had a patient who had one ovary left but had been told she would never be able to get pregnant on her own, who wound up with a surprise pregnancy! So I tell women not to give up hope. If you're under 40, talk to your doctor about egg freezingcalled cryopreservation."
Some chemotherapy drugs used to treat ovarian cancer–including carboplatin and cisplatin–have been linked with impaired fertility. But you can discuss the likelihood of damage with your gynecologic oncologist, and see if there are alternatives that would be equally effective. Dehn recalls another patient whose ovarian cancer was discovered while she was pregnant. "She decided to continue her pregnancy," she recalls. "She started chemotherapy in her third trimester. Her baby was born perfectly fine and healthy."
There are many fertility-sparing treatment options for women to consider if they’ve been diagnosed with ovarian cancer before they’ve become parents or completed their families. Your gynecologic oncologist in consultation with a reproductive endocrinologist can recommend the most effective treatment for your cancer that will also allow you a chance at natural parenthood when your treatment is complete.