Cancer and fertility are two topics that are not often discussed together, but they are intimately connected. For many cancer patients in the United States and worldwide, the treatments used to fight the disease can significantly impact their ability to conceive children in the future.
How cancer treatments affect fertility
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy, the most common treatments for cancer, can have an impact on fertility. These treatments work by killing rapidly dividing cells, including cancer cells, but they can also damage healthy cells in the reproductive system.
Chemotherapy can cause damage to the ovaries, which can result in a decrease in the number of eggs produced or premature menopause. Radiation therapy can also damage the ovaries or testicles, leading to a decrease in fertility or infertility.
In addition to these treatments, surgery to remove cancerous tissues can affect fertility, depending on the location and type of surgery performed.
Options for preserving fertility
For cancer patients who wish to have children in the future, there are several options available to preserve their fertility.
Egg or sperm freezing, also known as cryopreservation, involves freezing eggs or sperm before cancer treatment. This method can preserve fertility for both men and women, but it requires time before cancer treatment to allow for the collection and freezing of eggs or sperm.
Embryo freezing involves fertilizing eggs with sperm in a laboratory to create embryos, which are frozen before cancer treatment. This method is only available to couples and requires time before cancer treatment to allow for the fertilization and freezing of the embryos.
Ovarian tissue freezing involves surgically removing a piece of ovary tissue before cancer treatment and freezing it for later use. This method is still considered experimental but has shown promise in restoring fertility in some patients.
Donor eggs or sperm can help achieve pregnancy after cancer treatment, but this option may not be suitable for all patients due to personal or religious beliefs.
It is crucial to discuss your fertility/surrogacy options with a healthcare provider before cancer treatment to determine which option is best for each patient based on their age, cancer diagnosis and treatment plan.
Dealing with cancer as a prospective parent
Cancer treatment can affect fertility, but options are available for patients who wish to have children. Cancer patients must carefully examine their options for preserving fertility before cancer treatment to make informed decisions about their future family planning. With the proper care and planning, cancer patients can have hope for a future that includes the possibility of having children.