How Cancer Treatments Can Affect a Woman’s Fertility

As in any medical condition, it is always best to get your information from a doctor. Fertility and cancer are conditions that have many unknowns. Plus, women are provided less information about fertility than men, so it is one’s responsibility to ask the proper questions from the proper source.

The Age Factor
The more mature woman has less chances of being fertile. It is thus expected that an older woman who has undergone cancer treatment has less chances of getting pregnant despite special interventions.

The type and dose of chemo will determine the effect of the drug on fertility. Generally, chemo will damage the eggs in the ovaries. Alkylating drugs (drugs that deter DNA replication) and nitrosoureas (a type of alkylating drug that halts cancer cell reproduction) will most likely cause infertility: Ifosfamide, Cyclophosphamide, Melfalan, Busulfan are among the drugs in this classification.

However, there are chemo drugs that have a lower likelihood on causing infertility: anti-metabolites prevent cancer cells from using folate to create DNA (Mehtotrexate; 5-fluorouracil (5-FU); Bleomycin; Vincristine).

Take into account, also, that the higher the dosage of the drug, the more likely to cause infertility. Bone marrow and stem cell transplants are also damage fertility due to the high dosage of drugs required during the transplant process.

High dosages of radiation can also destroy all the eggs in a woman’s ovaries. This can cause early menopause. No matter where the rays are directed, these bounce around inside the body and can affect the reproductive organs.

It is best to avoid pregnancy during this treatment. Radiation directed at the uterus can cause miscarriage, low birth weight, or premature birth.

Undergoing surgery in the reproductive organs will cause infertility. A hysterectomy is the most common surgery for this cancer wherein the uterus is removed, making the woman incapable of carrying a child. An oophorectomy removes the ovaries where eggs are produced, rendering a woman infertile. A trachelectomy removes the cervix but retains the uterus. A woman can still get pregnant.

Surgery on the fallopian tubes may cause scarring and block the movement of the eggs from the ovaries hindering fertilization.

Hormonal Therapy
There are hormone treatments for breast cancer that can affect a woman’s period. Menstruation may cease, but usually comes back after 6 months, unless the woman is close to menopause. Then, she may not regain her period again.

The drug Tamoxifen will increase fertility, therefore it is best to avoid pregnancy while taking it since it may affect the baby.

There are newer treatments like vaccines, immune therapies, or biological response modifiers, but the effects on fertility are not yet known. Talk to a medical expert if you have any questions that may lead you to take the more appropriate measure.