What is fertility?
Fertility is the ability to fall pregnant and it depends on having a supply of eggs from the ovaries. You are born with a large number of eggs and as you get older, the number becomes fewer. When there are very few left, you go through the menopause (change of life).
How can chemotherapy affect fertility?
Chemotherapy treatment for cancer can cause infertility. Chemotherapy can damage the ovaries, reducing the number of eggs available, cause early menopause and affect hormone production.
Is infertility temporary or permanent?
The effect that chemotherapy has on fertility may be temporary or permanent depending on:
- the chemotherapy drugs used
- the dose of the drug used – higher doses are more likely to affect your fertility
- whether a combination of chemotherapy drugs is given – a combination of drugs may be more likely to affect your fertility
- your age and general health.
Each person’s situation is different and it is not always possible to preserve everyone’s fertility. It is also important to be aware that following chemotherapy treatment menopause may occur earlier than expected. Some types of hormonal therapy may also affect your fertility. This effect is usually temporary and only lasts whilst you are having this treatment.
Do I need to use contraception?
You are advised to avoid falling pregnant during and after your chemotherapy treatment. You should continue to use a reliable method of contraception for a defined period of time after your treatment has finished. Discuss this with your doctor or nurse. For women with breast cancer, it is not advisable to take the oral contraceptive pill. Please discuss with your doctor before stopping oral contraception.
tell your doctor as soon as possible, as there may be a risk to the health of a child conceived during treatment.
If you may already be pregnant, OR if you become pregnant during treatment, you should
Is it still possible to get pregnant after chemotherapy?
Although some treatments for cancer may reduce fertility, it may still be possible to fall pregnant once treatment has ended. If you are concerned that your treatment may impact on your fertility, it is important to discuss this with your doctor or nurse before starting your treatment.
Fertility preservation options available will depend on your age, the treatment you are having, your level of desire to have a future family, partner status and the time available prior to starting treatment. Your doctor may refer you to a fertility clinic to discuss suitable options before starting your chemotherapy treatment; if you are referred to a fertility clinic it is important that the clinic knows that you are about to commence chemotherapy treatment for cancer.
Where can I get further information?
It is important to seek further information from your doctor or nurse before starting your treatment. When considering fertility preservation options, it may be helpful to talk to an infertility counsellor.