Cancer is characterised by an out-of-control cell growth. Sometimes called malignancy, Cancer harms the body when malignant cells divide uncontrollably to form lumps or masses of tissue called tumors.
There are over 100 different types of cancer including breasts cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer and lymphoma. Symptoms for each type of cancer may be different depending on the kind.
Cancer and some cancer treatments can affect reproductive health. Some people with cancer may find that their fertility is affected for a short time and recovers when treatment has finished. However, others find that their fertility is affected for a longer period, even permanently.
Some types of cancer, like ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer or cervical cancer can affect the fertility of a woman directly by preventing the ovaries from working regularly, preventing the production of hormones and damaging the lining of the uterus (endometrium). In general in these types of cancers, it is most likely that the necessary treatment to fight cancer will have a adverse impact on the women´s fertility.
In other types of cancer, treatments like chemotherapy or radiation will reduce the number of eggs available in the ovaries so that the patient will not be able to become pregnant after the treatment is completed.
Furthermore, it is not advisable to get pregnant during cancer treatment for several reasons. Firstly, the treatment could harm the baby depending on the week of pregnancy, and the treatment used. Secondly, due to the pregnancy the therapeutic options could be reduced and third even the chance of curing cancer is quite useful nowadays , but the aspect of a possible life-threatening disease should still be considered.
Fertility in men with cancer can be affected by interfering with the production of sperm, affecting the production of testosterone and other hormones involved in sexual function e.g. in cancer that affects the testes.
Moreover, cancer may cause damage to nerves and blood vessels in the pelvic area that can make it difficult to get an erection or ejaculation. Additional, like in women men's fertility could be impaired by the type of cancer treatment.
For some men and women, cancer treatment leads to permanent infertility. In others, treatment may reduce the production of hormones and decrease the number of eggs in the ovaries and men, they stop or slow the sperm production for years before it turns. The likelihood of reproductive damage depends on the age and the sex of the patient, the type and duration of treatment and the fertility status of the cancer treatment.
The risk of developing infertility after cancer treatment is lower in young women compared to older women. Moreover, the type and dose of the treatment administrated has an impact on the fertility outcome.
For cancer affected patients, being in fertile age category, it is recommended to evaluate the possibility of fertility preservation prior the cancer treatment. This requires a multidisciplinary approach and should be discussed with individual based cases.
In premenopausal women with a type of cancer that needs radiation for treatment, the risk of infertility depends on the radiation field and radiation dose. On the contrary, radiation treatment in men may kill sperm cells and stem cells that produce sperm.
It is important to note that although cancer treatments may make it less likely, it is still possible for a pregnancy to occur.
The first goal of cancer treatment is to eliminate cancer, even if the treatment might cause infertility. Due to new techniques in reproductive medicine different methods can be offered in consultation with the treating oncologist that may help preserve fertility before and after cancer treatment.
The reproductive specialists from IVI Middle East Fertility Clinic are here to support and provide you guidance about your possible options. Book an appointment with our specialist.
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