The overwhelming diagnosis of breast cancer is often compounded for women who are still hoping to have children. While breast cancer can often be managed and fertility resumed, there are some critical factors to consider before entering into treatment.

Chemotherapy can temporarily and sometimes permanently cause infertility, with each case requiring the close care and attention of a health professional.

Many women who face treatment for breast cancer are now freezing their eggs or embryos as a safeguard to ensure their fertility remains intact for a time when the cancer has been beaten.

Lizanne van Waart says the decision has to be made very quickly as treatment for the cancer should start urgently. “Many people are caught up in a great deal of fear at that point and it can be reassuring to know that healthy eggs are safely stored up for potential use later.”

Cryogenic eggs have a life of more than ten years. When they are required they are fused with sperm and the resultant embryo is placed into the uterus of the mother much as it is with IVF. There are no guarantees that eggs that have been frozen will fertilise but high-tech equipment has allowed doctors to identify the healthiest eggs and store them at optimal conditions. Frozen embryos contribute an even greater chance of successful pregnancy but understandably this is not an option for women who are not in a long-term relationship. As always with fertility, the younger a patient is, the greater the chances of success with IVF when using frozen eggs or embryos.