Understanding Fertility in Female Cancer Patients
In acknowledgment of breast cancer awareness, we want to take the time to spread awareness of how cancer, and the treatment of it, impacts fertility in women. According to The Journal of Women’s Health from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, women diagnosed with cancer today have a greater chance of long-term survival than ever before. However, lifesaving treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery often have infertility as a side effect.
Let’s discuss some facts about female cancer and the treatment options available.
Cancer Facts in Females
- More than 135,000 people under the age of 45 years of age are diagnosed with cancer every year.
- Approximately half of these patients are women, according to the National Cancer Institute
- There are over 100 types of cancer
- The most commonly diagnosed cancers are breast cancer and lung cancer
- It is estimated that 266,120 new breast cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2018
- The 5-year survival for localized female breast cancer is 98.7%
View more statistics on breast cancer in the video below, provided by the National Cancer Institute.
Cancer Treatments Can Affect Fertility
There are three main cancer treatments that can affect fertility. These are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. There are several biological systems that these treatments can affect and, therefore, cause infertility. Examples of these biological systems include reproductive organs such as the uterus, ovaries and the Fallopian tubes along with other parts of the female body. Let’s discuss in more detail how each treatment can affect female fertility.
When diagnosed with cancer, surgery may be the suggested option to completely remove the growth and surrounding tissue. A woman diagnosed with gynecologic cancer may need partial or complete removal of her Fallopian tubes, vagina, cervix, uterus, and/or one or both ovaries.
The age at which a woman has chemotherapy treatment and the type of regime she has are important factors to consider when trying to maintain fertility. Reduction of the ovarian reserve (eggs) is the most common cause of reproductive damage due to chemotherapy. According to the Journal of Women’s Health, there is also evidence that chemotherapy may impact the neuroendocrine axis. This axis influences the feedback interactions between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and the adrenal gland. In part, these glands control the body’s hormones, which play a very important role in reproduction.
Infertility is a possible outcome for cancer patients who go through various radiation treatments. The dose of radiation, the age of the patient, and the location of the treatment are all factors to consider.
Pelvic radiation is one treatment that may harm ovarian reserve and can cause loss of fertility. This type of therapy can also cause an increase in miscarriage rates, pre-term births, and other complications surrounding pregnancy. According to the Journal of Women’s Health, women whose cancer treatment causes damage to both the brain and pelvic regions are at the highest risk of infertility after cancer remission.
Women have the option of freezing their eggs to use to have a family at a later date, before starting cancer treatment. This is an excellent option for younger patients as well as women who have been diagnosed at an early stage. Fertility preservation is an option that gives peace of mind for the future and can be done fairly quickly (within a month’s time), so that cancer treatment can begin soon after.
Have Questions? Contact Cryos
Call Cryos at 407-203-1175 to speak with one of our friendly client service representatives. They will connect you to our Tissue Bank Director or Egg Donor Coordinators who will answer all your questions about your fertility preservation options before you begin cancer treatment. A live online chat system is also available Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. through our website.