Cancer is a difficult battle for many, and it can be made even harder if your fertility is at risk. Certain types of cancers are more likely to contribute to infertility such as ovarian, endometrial, and breast cancers. Cancerous tumors can block or press on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or the uterus preventing proper functioning and causing infertility.
Oftentimes, cancer treatment is more damaging to fertility than the actual tumor itself. Here is what you need to know about each cancer treatment option and its impact on fertility:
Chemotherapy works to target cells that divide quickly. Oocytes, ovarian cells, divide quickly and thus can be targeted with chemotherapy. This may cause the ovaries to stop releasing eggs and estrogen, contributing to infertility. Chemotherapy can also decrease egg count.
- Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy near the abdomen or pelvis could damage reproductive organs ability to function. Depending on the target area, different amounts of radiation may be absorbed by the reproductive organs. High doses of radiation can destroy some or all of the eggs in the ovaries resulting in permanent infertility. It is possible to protect the ovaries from radiation through a surgical procedure moving the ovaries away from the radiation zone. In addition to radiation directed at the pelvis, radiation targeting tumors in the brain can harm the pituitary gland also impacting fertility. The pituitary gland sends signals to the ovaries to release hormones necessary for ovulation.
Surgery for cancers of the reproductive system may require the removal of parts of reproductive organs necessary for fertility. Additionally, surgery for tumors in the pelvic region can harm nearby reproductive tissue causing damage that may lead to infertility.
Depending on your age, baseline fertility, and dose of treatment, your infertility due to cancer treatment may be temporary or permanent. Women closer to the age of menopause or who naturally have low egg counts are more likely to have permanent infertility due to these treatments. But, there’s hope. Treatments, such as egg freezing, are available to help women with options for fertility beyond cancer and cancer treatments.
If you have any questions about what options are available to you, before beginning any cancer treatment contact Dr. Pinto and the ReproMed Fertility team for a consultation today!
Dr. Anil Pinto is board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and the subspecialty of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. Dr. Pinto has a special interest in the treatment of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), recurrent pregnancy loss, and advanced reproductive technologies, such as IVF.