As you are likely aware, the purpose of this blog is to highlight the benefits of fertility preservation. For cancer patients specifically, fertility preservation has become a means of a fertile future. Through these pieces, the hope is to allow those having to choose fertility preservation and helping them to make the best decision. Besides helping cancer patients decide if fertility preservation is right for them, this blog also aims to educate the general public on the subject. In the last post, forms of cryopreservation were discussed. Although the freezing of eggs and sperm are the most common forms of fertility preservation, a few alternative options exist. Gonadal shielding is another option that both men and women have at their disposal during cancer treatments.
Compared to cryopreservation, gonadal shielding is a far less invasive way of preserving reproductive organs and cells. Those going through chemotherapy are encouraged to consider cryopreservation, as it saves the cells that may become damaged during treatment. For patients undergoing radiation treatment, gonadal shielding is a preferred means of fertility preservation. When radiation takes place around the pelvic area, it often has damaging effects on the individual’s fertility. In both men and women, radiation treatments have the ability to cause sterility. Gonadal shielding for both sexes is a similar process to going for a standard X-ray.
For those who have had X-rays taken, you are likely familiar with the process to protect your organs. Some modern techniques can direct the radiation rays to smaller areas. This being said, the likelihood of impairment of the reproductive system remains high. The same as when getting an x-ray, patients receive a lead shield across their pelvic area. This method has proven very beneficial when it comes to radiation treatments. For females, a small area of lead is placed over the area. The lead piece can reduce the reproductive organs exposure to radiation by 50%. Men are a bit luckier as the rate of radiation exposure to the pelvic area can reduce by 90-95% when properly protected by a gonadal shield.
Another important facet of gonadal shielding is its benefits for prepubescent cancer patients. Doctors will not suggest cryopreservation to young people undergoing cancer treatment. This being due to the fact that their reproductive cells are not fully matured. The female reproductive system receives more exposure during radiation treatment than males. Thus, young girls undergoing radiation treatments around the pelvic area are encouraged to use gonad shielding.
There are various methods of fertility preservation. Each patient will come with a different set of circumstances. It is important to communicate with a fertility preservation specialists in order to help determine which method is best suited for each scenario.