Cancer and sterility
An unfortunate side effect of undergoing cancer treatment is the risk of sterility for both men and women. Solutions like chemotherapy and radiation can damage reproductive health. For women, some chemotherapy drugs can block menstruation or encourage early menopause. Additionally, some cancer medications can prematurely reduce ovarian reserve. Radiation not only impacts menstruation but lowers sperm quantity and motility in males. Finally, cancer that requires surgical removal can sometimes impact reproductive organs, leading to permanent sterility in some cases.
Can sterility be reversed?
Infertility can sometimes be a temporary side effect for males who undergo cancer treatment. However, if reproductive organs are removed, such scenarios make a reversal impossible. For women, the answer often depends on the specific treatment plan used. For all cancer patients, preemptive measures to preserve fertility are critical. The type of fertility solution used to protect reproductive options depends on a person’s age and underlying health.
Sperm and egg preservation
People facing cancer treatment don’t have to face infertility without a solution. For males, sperm collection and banking is a quick and easy way to ensure that a man can have children in the future. For women, egg freezing is always an option. However, because the process requires an entire cycle to complete, cancer treatment may need to be delayed. As a result, depending on how advanced a girl or woman’s cancer is when receiving the diagnosis, assisted reproductive technology (ART) treatments like egg freezing may not always be a realistic option.
IVF after cancer
Especially for women who are more likely to have fertility permanently impacted by cancer, IVF can be a key option for starting or continuing a family. Ideally, a woman could use eggs previously harvested before beginning treatment. However, ovarian stimulation can also be used after treatment to encourage the body to grow multiple eggs in a single cycle for IVF use. Additionally, opting for an egg donor is another method that can be employed.
Pregnancy is possible
In vitro fertilization provides a pathway to having children that might otherwise not be possible. Preemptive IVF treatment is best, but the procedure can also be performed once a patient is in remission to help improve the chances of pregnancy. Cancer patients concerned about fertility outcomes after remission should speak with an oncologist and fertility specialist.