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Each year, over 100,000 individuals under the age of 45 are diagnosed with cancer in the United States. Many of these individuals receive treatments that will affect their fertility. According to the National Cancer Institute, the estimated number of reproductive-aged cancer survivors is approaching half a million.
Being told you have cancer and you may lose your fertility from treatment can be devastating. Fortunately, there are a variety of options to preserve fertility for individuals affected by cancer who wish to have children.
The likelihood of reproductive damage from cancer treatment depends on several factors, including your age and fertility status at diagnosis, gender, cancer type and stage, and treatment regime (including treatment type, length and dosage).
For men, cancer treatment can affect the normal quantity, speed and shape of sperm. For women, cancer treatment can damage eggs in the ovaries, affect the body’s hormonal balance, or injure the reproductive organs.
The following are some ways cancer can affect fertility:
If you want to have a baby in the future, there are a range of fertility-preserving options. Some options can be time consuming and expensive, and can pose other challenges for people with cancer, such as delaying cancer treatment or risking tumor growth. It’s important to discuss all of these issues with your doctor.
Keep in mind the following options may not be appropriate for everyone, and there may be other options available that are not listed below:
Once cancer treatment is complete, the excitement over surviving cancer can be overshadowed by fertility concerns. While many cancer survivors are able to conceive naturally after treatment, many require assisted reproductive technology. Many men who lose sperm function as a result of cancer treatment will eventually regain fertility. However, it can be more difficult for women.
Women are often advised to wait for six months or longer after treatment ends before trying to conceive, as eggs can become damaged from exposure to radiation and/or chemotherapy. Some doctors recommend waiting two years before trying to get pregnant to make sure the cancer doesn’t recur. Also, women often need to be closely monitored during pregnancy.
NOTE: THIS INFORMATION IS NOT INTENDED NOR IMPLIED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE. ALWAYS SEEK THE ADVICE OF YOUR PHYSICIAN OR OTHER QUALIFIED HEALTHCARE PROVIDER REGARDING FERTILITY CONCERNS DURING CANCER CARE.
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