Cancer no barrier for parenthood
By Alifiya Khan
Daily News & Analysis
Getting diagnosed with cancer is a big blow for anyone. IT professional Ramesh Shirole (name changed to protect identity) was shattered when detected with testicular cancer. The 35-year-old Baner resident had a double whammy - combating the deadly disease coupled with the possibility that he might never experience fatherhood.
His oncosurgeon explained that treatment involved surgery for removal of the affected testicle followed by a few sessions of chemotherapy. “The first question that struck me was what about my sperm quality after so many toxic chemotherapy sessions? I wanted to know if I could become a father,” said Shirole. In 2007, he went in for sperm banking, got operated and has a three-and-half-months-old daughter today.
Shirole is amongst a growing number of young people getting diagnosed with the Big C, especially cancers that affect reproductive organs. However, doctors say that the young lot need not fret as many modern techniques now ensure that young cancer survivors not only lead normal lives, but enjoy the joys of parenthood as well.
Options ranging from fertility sparing surgeries in which only part of cancer-affected organs are removed to less toxic chemotherapy sessions and infertility treatments like sperm-banking and egg-freezing are coming to patients’ rescue.
“There are some types of cancers that affect fertility of patients. For men, it is testicular cancers in which testicles are removed and sperm production stops or gets affected. Cervical cancer, uterine and ovarian cancer in women need complete or partial removal of reproductive organs. However these days, we do fertility sparing surgeries like removing only affected ovary to preserve chances of parenthood,” said Dr Shailesh Puntambekar, surgeon at Galaxy Care Laparoscopy Institute.
Infertility experts explained that the most common procedures recommended were sperm banking for men and egg freezing for women.
“It may not always be about removal of organs. Even multiple cycles of chemotherapy or radiation affects quality of sperms or eggs produced. Hence before starting these cycles, we advise men to store sperms in a sperm bank and women to try cryopreservation of eggs or embryo banking. After the treatment of cancer is over, we wait for a reasonable period to ensure no recall of ailment and complete treatment after which we suggest various fertility treatments for such couples. Many patients have become parents using such therapies,” said Dr Sunita Tandulwadkar, director of Ruby Hall Clinic’s infertility centre.
Even in cancers where a women’s reproductive tract is removed completely such as uterus removal surgery, cancer survivors have experienced motherhood.
“Surrogacy is an option available to such cancer survivors. Even if they can’t carry the child, the solace is it’s their own child. In other cases, where reproductive tract is intact, women themselves can get pregnant with no hassles. Men have lesser hassles as sperm banking is easy,’’ said Dr Sanjay Gupte, founder of Gupte Hospital.