Can Cancer Affect Fertility? 6 Things You Should Know

Can Cancer Affect Fertility? 6 Things You Should Know
Thursday, 04 February, 2021

Can Cancer Affect Fertility? 6 Things You Should Know

Being handed out a diagnosis of cancer sets one off on a physical and emotional challenging road, especially at a younger age. Survival takes forefront and issues such as quality of life after treatment may take a back seat. However it is important to note that the modalities for cancer treatment available nowadays are highly advanced offering a very good cure or remission rate. Hence issues such as fertility post treatment will come up once the initial cancer issue is favorably managed. It is important to understand how cancer and subsequent treatment may affect the ability to get pregnant. The good news is that, there are more options available to you today that can help you preserve fertility. It is important to consider these options prior to initiation of cancer treatment when possible.

If you or someone you know is suffering from cancer, this article will help answer some of the common questions people have related to cancer and fertility, including options you may want to consider.

1. How can cancer treatment affect female fertility?

Cancer treatments can cause damage to reproductive organs such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, and cervix. It can also decrease or damage ovarian reserve. Each woman is born with a supply of eggs in the ovaries. If these eggs are damaged or destroyed they cannot be replaced. Once eggs are lost early menopause will set in.

2. What type of cancer treatment is likely to affect fertility?

Chemotherapy

Depending on the type of cancer you have, doctors will prescribe specific drugs for chemotherapy treatment. The dosage and duration of treatment may come with a risk of infertility. In particular, alkylating agents may adversely affect fertility. These drugs may include busulfan, doxorubicin, melphalan, lomustine, and more.

Radiation

Cancer therapy that involves radiation treatment to any of the reproductive organs or nearby in the pelvic area may damage these organs. This can include radiation to the pituitary gland (which controls the production of some sex hormones), and radiation to the entire body in the case of bone marrow transplantation.

Surgery

Removal of the uterus, cervix, one or both ovaries can hinder your ability to get pregnant. In the case of cervix removal with preservation of the uterine body, may still hamper the passage of sperms leading to subfertility but couples may still be able to have children under C-section.

3. Will my menstrual cycles be affected after cancer treatment?

There is a likely chance that after chemotherapy your fertility may reduce. Even younger women may experience early onset of menopause. Older women, in particular, may take time to start menstruating again and in some cases, this may not happen. Assessing the ovarian reserve prior to chemotherapy can give some idea regarding the recovery potential and should be done.

4. How long do you have to wait after cancer treatment to have a baby?

You may have to wait for some time before you start having a baby. Waiting periods may depend on the type and stage of cancer, type of treatment you have undergone, and your age. Some cancer drugs are hormone based and women on such treatment may need to delay pregnancy. This delay can also affect fertility.

5. How can I preserve fertility if I’m been diagnosed with cancer?

It is very important that you discuss with your oncologist the risk of infertility due to your cancer operation or the subsequent chemo and radiation therapy BEFORE your operation. If there is a risk, you may want to refer to a fertility specialist. At Xenith we carry out these specialized consultations for both women and men regularly. Before the operation and treatment, you may have the options of freezing your eggs or embryos. In this treatment, fertility drugs are given to the woman for two weeks, eggs are collected and either the eggs are frozen or fertilized by her partner sperm and the embryos are frozen. The embryo can be implanted in the uterus after all cancer treatment is complete and it is safe to do so. If this is not possible, a surrogate can be used for birthing the baby.

Your options may depend on several factors including age and personal preferences about different procedures, as well as your relationship status (married, single). At Xentih, we will discuss all the options you have depending on your individual case.

6. What about men and their fertility after cancer treatment?

Men due to undergo cancer treatments may face infertility issues due to the type of cancer and treatment. It is possible to preserve men’s fertility before the cancer operation and treatment through sperm freezing, testicular shielding during radiation, and testicular sperm extraction.

Discuss with your doctors

  • What are the fertility risks involved in my cancer treatment?
  • Would the infertility, if any, be permanent or temporary?
  • What options do I have to preserve fertility?
  • After cancer treatment, how can I know if I am fertile?
  • Have a thorough and frank talk with your surgeon, oncologist, and a fertility specialist at Xentih to help you make informed decisions that could help you preserve your fertility during cancer treatment. Some questions you might want to ask:

    There are many more avenues open to couples who would like to get pregnant in spite of cancer and cancer treatment. We can help you make it happen. Whether you’re just about to get operated or you have already undergone treatment, let’s discuss the various options open to you. Awareness is the key to utilizing all available options. Call us now for an appointment.