A cancer diagnosis brings up many concerns, and for young men and women, one of those concerns might be “will I still be able to have children?” The answer to this depends on the type of cancer, how far it has spread, and what type of treatments you receive. In many cases, it is possible to have a successful pregnancy, labor, and delivery after cancer, but it can be more difficult.
How Cancer Affects Fertility
The cancers that have the biggest impact on fertility are cervical cancer, uterine cancer, and other gynecological cancers for women, and testicular cancer for men. The cancer itself can make reduce fertility, but it’s usually treatment that has the biggest impact. Cancer is often treated by removing all or part of the organ where the disease originated. This will make pregnancy impossible in many cases, but that does not mean you are out of options.
Other cancer treatments that can affect fertility include:
- Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy doesn’t typically cause infertility, but it can make both natural and IVF pregnancy more difficult. The medications used in chemotherapy can cause primary ovarian insufficiency (POI). This condition is usually temporary and fertility returns after treatment.
- Radiation Therapy – Radiation cancer treatments are precisely targeted at tumors, so damage to surrounding healthy tissue is minimal. Nonetheless, any collateral damage radiation therapy can make it more difficult to become pregnant. Ovarian shielding is an optional treatment that can protect your reproductive organs during radiation therapy.
- Hormone Therapy – Hormone therapy can disrupt menstruation and fertility, depending on the type of hormones used.
This is why we recommend exploring fertility preservation before starting treatment. However, do not delay cancer treatment any longer than you have to. Talk with your care team to find out how long you can wait before starting treatment.
Preserving Fertility During Cancer Treatment
You can have sperm, eggs, or ovaries frozen before cancer treatment begins to preserve your fertility options. This is recommended choice for most patients as it won’t interfere with your regular cancer treatments and allows you to delay pregnancy until you’re prepared.
Women with early-stage cervical cancer can also undergo a radical trachelectomy. This procedure removes the cervix, nearby lymph nodes, and part of the vagina. The remaining part of the vagina is attached to the uterus with a band that acts as a replica cervix.
Discuss all of your options with your cancer care team. While preserving fertility is important for many people, treating the cancer should always be your top priority.
Learn more about fertility treatments during and after cancer treatment at Palm Beach Fertility. Contact us online today.