Fertility after cancer treatment
What is fertility?
Fertility is being able to reproduce. This means that a woman is able to get pregnant and carry a baby to term.
Why should I think about my child’s future fertility now?
- Today, cancer treatments allow patients to live longer.
- Many survivors of cancer want to have children of their own.
- There are options available that might help protect your child’s fertility (fertility preservation).
How can cancer treatment affect my child’s fertility?
- Chemotherapy can damage the ovaries, which are the organs that produce eggs in women. These organs also produce important hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone.
- Radiation to the abdomen and pelvis can also damage the uterus and ovaries. Radiation to the brain can damage parts of the brain that tell the ovaries to produce eggs.
- Some surgical procedures required for cancer treatment can also damage the ovaries and the uterus.
- Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment can lead to infertility (inability to have children).
What is fertility preservation?
Fertility preservation methods are used to try to help a person have a child even though she might have received treatment that has damaged her fertility. Fertility preservation should be done before a person receives treatment that might damage her fertility. There are several methods that can be used to preserve fertility. Some involve taking medication (temporarily “shutting down” the ovaries), some involve surgery (freezing ovarian tissue), and others involve assisted reproductive technology also known as ART (freezing eggs).
It is best to discuss and use these options before receiving treatment that might damage your child’s future fertility.
5 important questions to ask your physician
- How quickly does my child need to start treatment?
- Will cancer or treatment affect her fertility?
- How can I protect my child’s fertility?
- Should I see a reproductive specialist?
- Can my child have her own biological children after treatment(s)?
What can Texas Children’s help you understand?
- How your child’s fertility might be affected by cancer treatment.
- The pros and cons of fertility preservation options available to your child.
- Other ways your child can have a family, even if she becomes infertile.
A multidisciplinary team of specialists
Our team works with your child’s oncologist to ensure that every patient has easy access to fertility counseling and treatment. Fertility preservation methods may take one day to two weeks depending on the option that is best for your child. Your decision to participate in fertility preservation counseling will not delay your child’s cancer treatment.