The whole process takes 3 -4 weeks and involves stimulating the ovaries to produce more eggs than normal. This is done by giving doses of the hormones GnRH, FSH and LH. A fourth hormone, called human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG), is also used. Usually at least six eggs are collected, which will increase the chances of achieving a pregnancy.
Eggs are collected in one of two ways. Either an ultrasound-guided needle is passed through the wall of the vagina, or a small cut is made in the abdominal skin below the navel and a fine needle is inserted to remove the eggs. These procedures can be uncomfortable and painkilling drugs may be needed. A general anaesthetic may be used.
Some women need to start their cancer treatment straight away and it may not be possible to delay it in order to have the ovarian stimulation.
There is a risk with some cancers, such as breast cancer, that the hormones used in ovarian stimulation may also stimulate the cancer to grow. It therefore may not be advisable to have ovarian stimulation. Your doctors will be able to discuss this with you. It may be possible to collect one or two eggs without ovarian stimulation, although this reduces the chances of a successful pregnancy.
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