Fertility Advice on World Ovarian Cancer Day

Every year on 8 May, World Ovarian Cancer Day is observed around the world to raise awareness of this reproductive cancer that has the lowest survival rate among women – a consequence of widespread unawareness of this cancer and its symptoms, and the resulting common occurrence of delayed or late diagnoses.

On World Ovarian Cancer Day, our team at Cape Fertility proudly add our voices to spread greater awareness of ovarian cancer, and particularly of its impact on a woman’s fertility, and to share the available solutions to preserve fertility for those who have been diagnosed with this cancer.

World Ovarian Cancer Day is observed around the world on 8 May each year to raise crucial awareness of this cancer that is too often diagnosed too late.

According to CANSA, ovarian cancer is the cancer for women with the lowest survival rate. An estimated 250,000 women around the world are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year and 140,000 women die of it! Just 45% of women with ovarian cancer are likely to survive for more than five years, compared to, for example, 89% of breast cancer patients.

This low survival rate is widely ascribed to a widespread lack of awareness, the lack of early screening tests and late diagnoses.

Must-know facts about ovarian cancer

All women are at risk of ovarian cancer, but sadly many people do not know what the signs or symptoms of ovarian cancer are and also mistakenly believe that the cervical smear test or pap smear test will detect ovarian cancer. As a result, ovarian cancer is often diagnosed at a late stage.

If ovarian cancer is diagnosed at an earlier stage, it vastly improves a woman’s chance of survival. Around 90% of women diagnosed with stage 1 ovarian cancer survive at least five years. Awareness of the early warning signs of the disease could save lives!

Some of the common symptoms include abdominal or pelvic pain; increased abdominal size or persistent bloating; difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; and/or needing to pass urine more urgently or more frequently. Other symptoms include fatigue, constipation, an upset stomach, back pain and menstrual changes.

If you or someone you know have had one or more of these symptoms for longer than 3 weeks, or if you have a family history of ovarian cancer, it is important to seek medical advice without delay.

Fortunately, ovarian cancer can be treated. The type of treatment depends on the type of ovarian cancer – there are more than 30 types of ovarian cancers! – and the stage of the cancer, as well as on the woman’s general health.

The treatment for ovarian cancer usually involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. Less often, treatment may include radiotherapy.

How ovarian cancer affects fertility

Your ability to have children, or your fertility, may be affected by the ovarian cancer itself or the treatment you receive, making it even harder to cope with.

The treatment of ovarian cancer treatment may involve the surgical removal of both ovaries and the fallopian tubes and the uterus (womb), which means a natural pregnancy will no longer be possible.

If the ovarian cancer is diagnosed early and only one ovary is affected, it might be possible to keep the uterus (womb) and the unaffected ovary, so a pregnancy might still be possible in the future.

However, cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy may damage the remaining ovary or increase the risk of an earlier menopause, also resulting in infertility.

Fertility preservation for ovarian cancer

Women of childbearing age who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer are encouraged to discuss the risk of infertility due to cancer and cancer treatments, as well as fertility preservation options, with their doctors as soon as possible – and before cancer treatment begins.

Thanks to advances in medical science, women can now choose to preserve and protect their fertility through options such as egg freezing and embryo freezing.

Used in mainstream medical industry for more than a decade, egg freezing is a safe and painless procedure and is often the only hope for a woman is at risk of losing her fertility as a result of cancer therapy and treatment.

It has been more than 20 years since the first birth resulting from a frozen egg was reported in 1986. At first, egg freezing had a poor success rate, because the conventional “slow” egg freezing techniques resulted in ice crystal formation inside the egg, damaging it and compromising its survival.

Two breakthroughs have since allowed scientists to overcome these egg freezing problems. The first is the development of a new culture media system that protects the egg from damage during the egg freezing/thawing process. This culture system reduces the formation of ice crystals during the egg freezing process by dehydrating eggs during egg freezing and rehydrating the egg during thawing.

The second breakthrough is ultra rapid freezing (vitrification) that has made it possible to avoid ice formation that would otherwise damage the eggs. In this way it is now possible to eliminate both important impediments to safe egg freezing and achieve good survival of frozen eggs.

Current evidence shows that children born from frozen eggs have no increase in chromosomal abnormalities, birth defects or developmental deficits, and can achieve success rates comparable to standard IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation).

Egg freezing has become “mainstream” since 2008 and provides women with a viable option for preserving their fertility into the future.

Where egg freezing is not possible, other fertility treatments can be explored, for example, In Vitro Fertilisation or IVF with donated eggs, surrogacy or even adoption.

Where can you have your fertility preserved?

For more than a decade, Cape Fertility – a leading fertility clinic registered and accredited by the Southern African Society for Reproductive Medicine and Gynaecological Endoscopy (SASREG) – has offered egg freezing as a viable option for women to preserve their fertility.

We are a leading fertility clinic providing advanced preservation of your future fertility through the latest in egg freezing techniques. Our egg freezing is performed by specialists, whose primary concern is your medical safety.

All the procedures in egg freezing process are done at our purpose-built premises in Claremont, Cape Town. In addition, we use the most advanced technology available today, including a new culture media system and a Cryotec vitrification system to ensure very high egg survival rates. Once frozen, your eggs are kept safe and secure in liquid nitrogen at an even temperature of -196 degrees Celsius until you are ready to use them.

Over the years, we have streamlined the process of egg retrieval, preservation and protection, which spans around two weeks, into five simple steps, and our specialist team will take great care of you every step of the way.

Your first step in preserving your fertility by freezing your eggs at Cape Fertility is simply to contact us by clicking here… our highly qualified and experienced fertility specialists will gladly answer your questions and address any concerns you may have.

We value each individual patient, and we look forward to providing you with our signature individualised and personalised care when you have eggs retrieved, frozen and stored in a friendly, relaxed and caring environment at our advanced, purpose-built facilities in the beautiful city of Cape Town.