Cancer and Fertility

The most common types of cancer in women that cause fertility issues include ovarian cancer, vaginal cancers and cervical cancer. The commonly associated symptoms with early-stage female reproductive cancers include – abdominal bleeding, bloating of the stomach, excessive & unintended weight loss, vaginal bleeding, amongst others.

In many cases, cancer surgery or treatments can be more likely than cancer itself to interfere with some parts of the reproductive process and affect your ability to have children. Different types of cancer surgeries and treatments can have different effects. And it is important to ascertain these factors before going ahead with the procedure.

How Can Cancer and Cancer Treatment Affect Fertility in Females?
Female reproductive cancers start in organs related to reproduction. Most of these organs are in the pelvis, an area located in the lower abdomen. Cancers can affect any of the various factors that are required for the attainment and sustenance of pregnancy. Cancers can affect a woman’s infertility in both direct and indirect ways.

Fertility problems for women from cancer or its treatment occur in two main ways – firstly by damage to organs involved in reproduction, such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, and cervix; and secondly by damage to organs involved in hormone production, such as the ovaries.

Moreover, infertility is now often treated with medical devices that could by themselves modify the hormonal environment and be cofactors in the cellular changes towards cancer development.

How Cancer and Cancer Treatment Can Affect Fertility in Males?
Fertility problems from cancer treatment in men may be both temporary and permanent. Some men regain the ability to produce sperm after treatment and could take one to three years to do so. However, in some cases, the time frame maybe even longer. Cancer treatments may cause fertility problems affecting the ability to produce sperm, damage the nerves and blood vessels needed for erection and ejaculation, and reduce the production of hormones that stimulate sperm production.

However, not all cancer treatments cause fertility problems in men, with some men having only partial recovery, with low sperm counts, and some men never recover sperm production.

The length of time you need to wait depends on your diagnosis and the treatment you received. You can have a semen analysis done at a sperm bank to see if you’re producing sperm and analyse your sperm count and motility before attempting to have a baby.

Safety of having Children after Cancer
There is no evidence that children conceived after cancer treatment are at an increased risk for congenital disabilities or other health problems. It is advisable not to conceive with sperm that may have been damaged from exposure to chemotherapy or radiation. This damage might affect the health of the child. Some cancers are hereditary, and it is another consideration before planning a baby.

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