Freezing before cancer treatment
We offer a rapid access service to all patients who have been diagnosed with cancer. You may need to have surgery to remove some cancerous cells or you may have been advised to start chemotherapy or radiotherapy urgently. We are here to help advise you on your options if you wish to freeze your eggs or sperm first to preserve your fertility.
We’ll offer you an appointment with one of our Fertility Consultants within 48 hours of you contacting us. They will carry out a rapid assessment of your situation and discuss your options for fertility preservation and storage. We’ll carry out any necessary tests on the same day and can design an individualised program of care based on your diagnosis and needs.
We have specifically tailored programs and information leaflets for young adults needing to freeze eggs or sperm.
If you wish to freeze eggs, we will start the egg freezing treatment process without any delay, regardless of where you are in your cycle. Most patients need 12 to 14 days of hormone injections to stimulate their ovaries before they are ready to have their eggs collected. Our protocols are designed to minimise any risk of side-effects or potential harm so that your surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy is not unnecessarily delayed. In some cases, we can offer two back-to-back ovarian stimulation cycles (Duo Stim). This enables more eggs to be collected before you start your treatment.
What does egg freezing involve?
In order to freeze your eggs you will need to take female hormone injections for 12 -14 days before having eggs collected from your ovaries. We understand the stress you may be under following your cancer diagnosis. Our staff will be with you at every stage to support you during this difficult time. They’ll talk you through each of the steps involved and provide you with a complete patient support program tailored to your needs.
What are the steps to freeze eggs?
Going through an egg freezing cycle is not as complicated as you might think. It involves a number of steps (see our patient journey diagram):
- Fertility MOT and Consultation
- Nurse Consultation
- Ovarian stimulation
- Egg collection
- Laboratory process to freeze eggs
Fertility MOT and consultation
You’ll first be invited in to have an ovarian reserve assessment and medical consultation to review your fertility and discuss your needs. Following this, your Consultant will prepare an individualised program for you. You’ll be offered counselling as well as other support options.
At this appointment, we’ll map out your treatment journey and agree on your start dates. It’s a good idea to attend with your partner if you are having treatment together, or to bring a friend or relative for support if you’re single.
You’ll have two Nurse Consultations; one to set dates and a further one where we show you how to take your medication, including self-administering your injections. Some people worry about this, but our experienced staff will make sure you feel confident that you can take your medication safely. We also have demonstration videos that you can view at home in case you want to go over anything again. All your medication will be delivered to your home (or other address of your choice) via our home-delivery pharmacy.
Most of our treatment plans require you to fill out some detailed, and sometimes complicated, consent forms to comply with regulations of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). To help you do this, we use an online fertility consent portal. That means you can complete your consent forms from the comfort of your own home (or wherever you happen to be) using a computer or mobile device.
We’ll ask you to watch some online videos about your proposed treatment before you attend your Nurse Consultation. The nurse will then check you’ve understood all the information in the consent forms and ask you (and your partner if they’re involved in the treatment) to sign these in the clinic.
During your consultations, you’ll also be given more information about our patient support options.
Before you leave, we’ll give you a fertility treatment identity card and a treatment schedule, which we’ll ask you to bring to every appointment.
You will need to take daily hormone injections that stimulate your ovaries to produce eggs. You take these for around 12 days. We’ll show you how to do these injections yourself, so you don’t need to make unnecessary trips to the clinic.
You’ll have three or four ultrasound monitoring scans and blood tests during your treatment cycle. These check the development of your follicles (the fluid sacs that contain the eggs).
Your results are reviewed by our medical team. They’ll advise you about whether you need to adjust the dose of your hormone injections. Once your follicles have reached the correct size, your Consultant will advise you to have an injection to mature your eggs ready for egg collection.
This is carried out at the Agora by one of our Consultants. You’ll be given sedation to help you sleep through the procedure which usually takes 15 to 20 minutes.
During the egg collection, a fine needle, attached to an ultrasound scanning probe, is passed through the vagina into each ovary to collect the eggs.
Once you have had the egg collection you will be transferred to our recovery bay where you will be cared for by our specialist nursing team. You will be given something to eat and drink and then you can go home. You should not drive or exert yourself unduly and just relax at home.
Egg collection is not usually a painful procedure but some patients find they need to take some paracetamol later in the day as they experience mild period like pains. You can go back to work the next day if you wish.
IVF Laboratory processes
During egg freezing, all the eggs that have been collected are rapidly frozen during a process called vitrification. The eggs are frozen in liquid nitrogen and carefully stored in tiny straws each labelled with your details.
Freezing eggs fertilised with sperm
If you’re certain about how you would want to use your eggs in the future, we may advise you to consider having them fertilised with donor sperm or your partner’s sperm to create embryos which are then frozen. We might suggest donor sperm if, for example, your partner or future partner is unlikely to be able to provide a sperm sample.
If you plan to have your eggs treated with sperm before they are frozen, the sperm needs to be available on the same day as the egg collection. This can be a fresh sample provided by a partner or a frozen sample if you are using donor sperm or previously frozen partner sperm. During sperm preparation in the IVF laboratory, the healthiest sperm are selected following a special process that is carried out in our on-site laboratory.
Your eggs are placed in a dish with sperm from your partner or sperm donor and allowed to fertilise. If the sperm is low in numbers or of poor quality, we may advise the eggs to be treated with intracytoplasmic injection (ICSI). This is a form of IVF where a single healthy sperm is injected directly into the centre of each egg to assist fertilisation. The treated eggs are then placed in an incubator. This provides the optimum conditions to allow fertilisation to take place.
Our embryologists will be in contact with you the next morning to let you know how many of your eggs have been fertilised. They will then keep you updated on how your fertilised eggs (now called embryos) are developing and to answer your questions. In patients with cancer we normally freeze the embryos the day after the egg collection.
If you wish to freeze sperm, this can be arranged on the same day you see your Fertility Consultant. If there’s time before starting your treatment, we can arrange for you to come in on up to three occasions to freeze sperm. We are also able to offer alternative methods of sperm collection if you have difficulty producing sperm, including sperm retrieval or urine collection (if you suffer from retrograde ejaculation). If you are too ill to attend the clinic we can arrange to come and collect your sperm at the hospital where you are being treated.
Next Open Evenings
Wednesday 22nd of April (Postponed)
Wednesday 8th of April (Postponed)
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or phone: 01273 229410
We look forward to welcoming you.