Written by Lizanne van Waart
Director & Founder of Wijnland Fertility Clinic / ART Counselling
MA. (Psychology) University of Stellenbosch


Thanks to improved diagnosis and treatments options, most young people diagnosed with cancer will go on to survive and thrive.

According to the American Cancer Society, the average 5-year survival rate for people with breast cancer is 90%. When breast cancer is found early on, the survival rate rises to 99%. It is good then that 60 % of all breast cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage.

While certain cancer treatments can harm your fertility, many of the effects may only be temporary. In some cases, however, the effects are permanent, making the life-changing choices that lie ahead increasingly difficult.

Factors to keep in mind regarding oncology treatments

  • Surgery: Fertility can be harmed during the surgical removal of testicles, prostate, uterus, and ovaries.
  • Chemotherapy: During the treatment, the medication goes through the bloodstream to the entire body, where it can attack other cells. Due to this, the eggs of women are at risk of damage and the testicles’ ability to produce testosterone, a crucial fertility hormone, may be affected.
  • Radiation: More damaging to fertility than chemotherapy as high doses of radiation can destroy the eggs in the ovaries and can result in the permanent termination of sperm production.

What is Fertility Preservation?

Fertility Preservation is a new branch of Reproductive Medicine. In practice, it is already proactively helping patients who are worried about future infertility. The process preserves women and men’s chances for the creation of families in the future even in the face of infertility caused by sickness or medical procedures.

For individuals facing oncology treatments, fertility preservation can be the key to the future of their family.

And while fertility preservation can preserve the future of those who face the risks of oncology cancer and oncology, its use reaches far further.

Here are three proven areas in which fertility preservation has been the key to future fertility:

  • Women who are waiting till later in their lives start families, considering late childbearing after the age of 35.
  • Individuals who face life with an autoimmune disease, like Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis, where women and men’s fertility can be affected.
  • Transgender individuals who want to preserve their sperm and eggs before commencing surgery in their gender transition.

Preservation options available to women:

  • Oocyte cryopreservation (egg freezing)
  • Ovarian Suppression
  • Embryo cryopreservation (after harvesting eggs have been fertilised with sperm to create embryos)
  • Ovarian tissue cryopreservation
  • Auto-transplantation of ovarian tissue

Preservation options available to men:

  • Sperm cryopreservation
  • Embryo cryopreservation (after harvesting eggs have been fertilised with sperm to create embryos)

4 Ways to Cope When Despair Won’t Go Away

At Wijnland Fertility, we have dedicated our lives to the creation of families, in every way we can. And as part of that dedication, we recognise the importance of the emotional journeys that go hand in hand with the journey of beginning a family.

To be diagnosed with cancer while on that journey, however, brings with it emotional turmoil that few can understand. What may start as a period of grieving, quickly begins to fluctuate between hope and despair. But what happens when the times of despair start to drown out the hope?

When faced with despair that simply refuses to go away, when the times look darker and darker no matter what you do, it may be time to start looking at your despair differently. Try the following 4 steps and start seeing your despair in a different light:

  1. Take your despair for a walk. Go outside for some fresh air, clear your headspace and give your thought a break from the emotional rollercoaster.
  2. Honour your despair – don’t deny it. Acknowledging and accepting your despair, allowing yourself to feel it, allowing you to take away some of the power it has over your life.
  3. Invite your despair along for a drink. Isolation fuels despair and digs you deeper into the hole you already feel you are in. So, seek the company of people who can share your experience.
  4. Give your sorrow words. Pets and journals: you will be surprised at how well they can help you find comfort and understanding in times of despair. Write down the things you struggle to say out loud and share your sorrow with the creatures who will support you in a way that goes deeper than many human interactions can.

Despair is a normal part of the emotional journey, especially when partnered with the occurrence (however rare) of hope. What’s most important is to remember that you don’t need to face the journey alone. If you need support in your battle with cancer, the Wijnland family will always be here to help however we can. Visit our website for more detailed information on fertility preservation or contact us to discuss the future of your family.

Written by Lizanne van Waart
Director & Founder of Wijnland Fertility Clinic / ART Counselling
MA. (Psychology) University of Stellenbosch