Fertility preservation in adolescents and young adults with cancer
Preservation of fertility is important to adolescent and young adult (AYA) survivors of cancer. Many survivors will maintain their reproductive potential after the successful completion of treatment for cancer. However total-body irradiation, radiation to the gonads, and chemotherapy regimens containing high-dose alkylators can place women at risk for acute ovarian failure or premature menopause and men at risk for temporary or permanent azoospermia. The most effective and established means of preserving fertility in this population is embryo cryopreservation in women and sperm cryopreservation in men before the initiation of cancer-directed therapy. Cryopreservation of mature oocytes is also becoming more commonplace as methods of thawing become more sophisticated. The use of in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection has added to the viability of sperm and oocyte cryopreservation. Cryopreservation and transplantation of gonadal tissue in both males and females remains experimental but continues to be evaluated. Hormonal suppression has not been shown to be effective in males but may have promise in females, although larger scale trials are needed to evaluate this. Providing information about risk of infertility and possible interventions to maintain reproductive potential are critical for the AYA population at the time of diagnosis. Given the competing demands of providing complicated and detailed information about cancer treatment, the evolving information related to fertility preservation, and the ethical issues involved, it may be preferable, where possible, to have a specialized team, rather than the primary oncologist, address these issues with AYA patients.