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What is fertility?

Fertility is the ability to get pregnant or conceive a child. Some types of cancer treatment can result in a woman having trouble getting pregnant. Fertility preservation is essential before or during cancer treatment to increase your chances of getting pregnant later on.

Which cancer treatments can cause fertility problems?

Cancer treatments that can cause fertility problems include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery

Chemotherapy or chemo is a type of cancer treatment using drugs to kill cancer cells or to stop them from growing.

Radiation therapy uses high-energy waves, such as x-rays, to destroy or damage cancer cells.

Surgery can involve the removal of your ovaries or uterus, which means you can’t get pregnant or carry a pregnancy.

Chemotherapy and radiation can potentially damage or destroy eggs in the ovaries, which results in having no periods or irregular periods. Radiation can also damage the womb, making it difficult to carry a pregnancy. 

Thankfully, not everyone who undergoes chemo or radiation will have fertility problems. If you have chemotherapy, it depends on the drugs and dose you get. If you have radiation, it depends on the dose and part of the body that’s treated during radiation.

What should I do if I want to get pregnant someday?

Talk to your doctor or gynaecological oncologist before starting your cancer treatment. In some cases, treatment options with a reduced chance of affecting your future fertility might be available. 

Are there other ways to preserve fertility?

Yes, different options are available to help you preserve your fertility.

Limiting surgery

In some cases, it’s considered feasible and safe to limit the extent of your surgery.

Fertility specialist consultation

We can time your surgery to enable you to have a consultation with a fertility specialist to discuss any of the following options:

  • Embryo banking

Your fertility specialist will collect your eggs before you start cancer treatment and fertilises them with sperm in a lab to make embryos. The embryos can be frozen and stored until you’re ready to use them. 

  • Taking medication

You can take certain medication to reduce the working of your ovaries during cancer treatment. 

  • Freezing and storing non-fertilised eggs or tissue from your ovaries
  • Moving your ovaries

If your ovaries are likely to be affected by radiation, it’s possible to have surgery to move them to a position where they won’t get damaged. 

If you’re going through chemotherapy and radiation, all of the above options are available to you.  

How do we decide which option is right for me?

The feasibility of fertility preserving treatments and the choice of an individual treatment depends on a number of factors. 

We take a multidisciplinary approach to cancer treatment and fertility sparing treatment options to reach the best possible outcome for you. 

Your treatment may involve a:

  • Gynaecological oncologist
  • Radiation oncologist
  • Medical oncologist
  • Fertility specialist
  • Nurse specialist
  • Psychologist

As a specialist team, we’ll discuss the different options available to you and recommend the best possible treatment with the highest chance of curing cancer while preserving your fertility. 

As your Gynaecological Oncologist, I will sit down with you and your fertility specialist to explain the different treatment options in a language you can understand in a caring environment.

What if I still can't get pregnant?

If you still can’t get pregnant after cancer treatment, you have other choices:

  • You and your partner can try to get pregnant using a donated egg.
  • You can choose to have a surrogate mother carry a pregnancy for you.
  • You can choose to adopt.

It can be incredibly difficult to make a decision. Some couples choose to talk to a professional therapist or go to a support group for people facing the same issues.

Want to make an appointment?