What is fertility?
Fertility is the ability to fall pregnant and depends on having a supply of eggs from the ovaries. You are born with a large number of eggs but as you get older, the number of eggs becomes fewer. When there are very few eggs left, you go through the menopause (change of life).
How can radiotherapy affect fertility?
Not all radiotherapy treatments will affect your fertility. However some radiotherapy treatments affect your fertility more than others and include treatments for:
- pelvic cancers (e.g. cervical, uterine, ovarian, bladder or rectal) and pituitary/hypothalamus gland
- preparation for a bone marrow transplant when total body irradiation (TBI) is given.
Radiotherapy can damage the ovaries, reducing the number of eggs available, causing an early menopause and affecting hormone production. Depending on the area of the body that has been treated the risk of miscarriage and premature birth in women who fall pregnant after treatment may be increased.
Is infertility temporary or permanent?
The effect of radiotherapy on fertility may be temporary or permanent depending on the area being treated, the total dose of radiation delivered (higher doses are more likely to affect fertility), whether a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy are given, as well as your age and general health.
Each person’s situation is different and it is not always possible to preserve everyone’s fertility.
Some types of hormonal therapy may affect fertility; this effect is usually temporary and only lasts while treatment is being taken.
Do I need to use contraception?
You are advised to avoid getting pregnant during and after your radiotherapy treatment. You should continue to use a reliable method of contraception during and for a defined period of time after your treatment has finished. Discuss this with your 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 radiotherapy?
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; if you are referred to a fertility clinic, it is important that the clinic knows that you are about to commence radiotherapy treatment for cancer.
Where can I get further information and support?
It is important to seek further information from your doctor/nurse before starting your treatment. When considering fertility preservation options, it may be helpful to talk to an infertility counsellor.