Cancer’s Impact on Fertility
Each year in the United States, millions of men and women are diagnosed with cancer. While cancer was once considered a death sentence, advances in treatment have enabled men women to survive and thrive after a cancer diagnosis. But the same therapies used to treat cancer, while they improve patients’ chances of survival, have side effects that may negatively impact their fertility. Many of these men and women are in their prime reproductive years, leaving them wondering how cancer may affect their ability to have a child in the future. With World Cancer Day upon us, the fertility experts at REACH are here to explain how cancer treatment can impact fertility, and how the right treatment plan can help patients preserve their fertility for the future.
Cancer Treatments & Infertility
Depending on the type and stage of the cancer diagnosis, some cancers can be treated using procedures that can preserve an individual’s ability to have children in the future. For example, if the cancer can be treated surgically, there is little risk of infertility (related to the cancer diagnosis).
Unfortunately, a majority of cancer treatments involve chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which can dramatically affect fertility. Chemotherapy, in particular, can cause premature ovarian failure or even early menopause. While some women will find their ovaries regain function after some time, older patients and those who have received higher levels of chemotherapy may never regain ovarian function.
For men, chemotherapy and radiation treatment can affect negatively affect hormone and sperm production, leaving some men unable to produce healthy (or any) sperm and causing infertility.
Preserving Your Fertility
While treatment for cancer can negatively impact your fertility, there are steps men and women can take to help preserve their fertility for the future. For men, simply freezing a sperm sample can help preserve their ability to have biological children in the future. For women, the ability to preserve their fertility can depend on their diagnosis.
For women who have been cleared by their oncologists, meeting with a Reproductive Endocrinologist to discuss fertility preservation options prior to beginning treatment is the first step. This initial meeting will go over fertility preservation options including egg banking, embryo banking, and ovarian tissue banking. These options all provide women with the ability to have biological children in the future, either carrying the child themselves or through the use of a gestational carrier.
When Time is of the Essence
For some women, seeking fertility preservation options prior to beginning treatment is not possible. While this means they may not be able to have genetically related children, they have other paths to parenthood. For patients who did not need to have a hysterectomy, donor eggs can be used to facilitate a pregnancy. If a patient had a hysterectomy, the use of donor eggs in combination with a gestational carrier can help them realize their dreams of family.
With so many advances in treatment, many more men and women are leading long and healthy lives post-diagnosis. For many of these individuals, the ability to build a family is integral to their future happiness. If you are facing a cancer diagnosis and would like to learn more about the fertility preservation options available to you, please contact the fertility specialists of REACH at 888-551-0874 or schedule an appointment today.