Cancer brings with it a lot of life changes and uncertainties. For female patients who wish to have children, it also brings lots of questions about chemotherapy’s effects on their ability to have a child. While it is true that chemotherapy can result in early menopause, there are ways women can better understand and prepare for the risks they face, and in some cases, even lower them.
Whether you’re planning for chemotherapy or are in recovery, here’s what you need to know if you’re concerned that your treatment may hurt your chances of getting pregnant.
Types of Drugs
Your doctor may prescribe from any of the dozens of available chemotherapy drugs. Some are known to carry a higher risk of causing infertility, such as cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), busulfan, and doxorubicin (Adriamycin). Others have shown to be less likely to damage a woman’s eggs, including 5-flourouracil (5-FU), fludarabine, and bleomycin. Newer medicines, such as the more recent taxanes Taxol, Taxotere, and Abraxane, do not yet have enough research available to determine their effect on fertility.
Make sure to discuss with your doctor beforehand your wishes to target prescriptions that are less likely to impact your fertility, and see what options are available to you.
Your doses of chemotherapy meds matter. Women who receive higher doses of chemotherapy face a greater chance of experiencing infertility post-treatment. It’s also worth noting that often, a doctor prescribes a combination of different chemotherapy drugs in varying doses, some high, some low. Some therapies, such as bone marrow or stem cell transplants, require higher doses of chemotherapy, and therefore carry a higher risk of causing infertility.
In addition to multiple chemotherapy drugs, a chemo patient often receives a variety of treatments as well, and these can bring their own risks of infertility. For example, radiation therapy directed at the ovaries can increase the risk of early menopause. Some types of surgery can cause scarring that can block the release of eggs. Or, in the case of a hysterectomy, a surgery to remove the uterus, some required surgeries can make it impossible to carry a child at all.
Remember to ask your doctor how all the drugs and procedures you receive, including chemotherapy, will affect your fertility.
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