IVF: in sickness and in wealth
More single women are choosing to harvest their eggs and have them frozen for future use by licensed in vitro fertilisation (IVF) clinics before they undergo medical treatment such as chemotherapy.
The Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital, one of the leaders in the field, says it is receiving an increasing number of inquiries because of a rise in breast cancer among younger women.
'More and more young patients have been concerned with the issue of reproduction in recent years,' says Dr Joseph Chan Woon-tong, head of the hospital's unit for women's health and obstetrics.
'A small number of them prefer to have their eggs preserved before cancer treatment for future use.'
However, private sector IVF treatment in Hong Kong carries a hefty price tag, typically HK$75,000 to HK$80,000 per cycle. And the law stipulates that IVF is only available to eligible married couples.
The risks from IVF procedures are generally low, but Chan says cancer patients sometimes need hormones to stimulate the ovaries, so extra care is taken to determine the exact dose.
Besides seeking medical advice on the most appropriate time for IVF treatment, women are also required to consult reproductive specialists and clinical psychologists before they decide to store eggs or embryos.
'For single women, eggs may only be stored for a maximum of 10 years, or until the patient is 55 years old,' says Chan.
'Neither stored eggs nor embryos can be used for patients who remain unmarried after they recover from cancer or other diseases,' he adds.