Fertility preservation in women with early-stage gynecologic cancer: optimizing oncologic and reproductive outcomes

Int J Gynecol Cancer. 2021 Mar;31(3):345-351. doi: 10.1136/ijgc-2020-001328. Epub 2020 Jun 21.


Almost all standard therapies for gynecologic cancer, including surgical intervention, gonadotoxic chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, threaten a woman's childbearing potential. Preservation of fertility should be discussed with premenopausal women with early-stage gynecologic cancer shortly after diagnosis and, for women who desire to preserve fertility, during treatment planning. Many authors have investigated both oncologic and reproductive outcomes following fertility-sparing therapy, and there is ongoing development of assisted reproduction techniques available to cancer patients and survivors. Women with early-stage (IA1-IB1) cervical cancer may be candidates for fertility-sparing cervical conization, simple trachelectomy, or radical trachelectomy. In women with stage I epithelial ovarian cancer, fertility-sparing surgery appears safe overall, although controversy remains in patients with high-risk features (eg, high pathologic grade, clear cell histology, or stage IC disease). In women with low-grade, early-stage endometrial cancer, hormonal therapy has emerged as a viable option. Criteria for patient selection for fertility-sparing therapy are not well defined, thus patients and providers must carefully discuss potential risks and benefits. In general, in carefully selected patients, survival outcomes do not appear to differ significantly between radical and fertility-sparing approaches. Women who undergo fertility-sparing therapies may experience a number of fertility and obstetric complications. Preconception counseling with high-risk obstetric specialists is important to optimize health before a woman attempts to conceive. Identifying appropriate candidates for fertility-sparing treatments, assessing fertility potential, and helping women conceive after cancer treatment is best accomplished through multidisciplinary collaboration between gynecologic oncologists and fertility specialists.

Keywords: cervical cancer; miscellaneous; ovarian cancer; uterine cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Counseling*
  • Female
  • Fertility Preservation / adverse effects
  • Fertility Preservation / methods*
  • Genital Neoplasms, Female / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Patient Selection*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Neoplastic / therapy*