Cancer treatment can significantly impact a person’s fertility, of both sexes, particularly for young patients. However, there are options available for those who wish to preserve their fertility before undergoing cancer treatment.
Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery, can damage the reproductive organs and potentially affect a person’s ability to conceive naturally. The extent of the damage depends on the type of treatment, dosage, and duration of treatment. Certain types of cancer, such as testicular cancer, can also affect fertility directly.
In women, chemotherapy can cause damage to the ovaries, leading to a decrease in the number of eggs or even premature menopause. Radiation therapy can also damage the ovaries, uterus, and cervix, leading to infertility or a high-risk pregnancy. Surgery, particularly for gynecologic cancers, can also damage the reproductive organs.
In men, chemotherapy and radiation therapy can affect the production of sperm, leading to decreased sperm count, abnormal sperm shape or motility, and even infertility. Surgery, particularly for prostate or testicular cancer, can also affect the production of sperm.
To preserve fertility, cancer patients can consider fertility preservation options before undergoing cancer treatment. These options include:
- Egg freezing: This involves collecting eggs from a woman’s ovaries, freezing them, and storing them for future use. The eggs can be thawed and fertilized with sperm through in vitro fertilization (IVF) when the patient is ready to conceive.
- Embryo freezing: This involves fertilizing the collected eggs with sperm to create embryos, which are then frozen and stored for future use. The embryos can be thawed and implanted in the woman’s uterus through IVF when the patient is ready to conceive.
- Ovarian tissue freezing: This involves removing a portion of a woman’s ovary and freezing it for future use. The frozen ovarian tissue can be transplanted back into the woman’s body, where it can resume its normal function and produce eggs.
- Sperm banking: This involves collecting and freezing a man’s sperm for future use. The frozen sperm can be thawed and used for insemination or IVF when the patient is ready to conceive.