With innovative treatments and survival rates on the rise, more women can beat cancer and plan for a family in the future, too.
Here's what we know about how gynecologic cancers — like ovarian cancer and cervical cancer — affect fertility.
How Does Cancer Affect Fertility?
While cancer can damage a woman’s reproductive organs, treating gynecologic cancers can also harm a woman’s ability to have children. Either the surgery, chemotherapy or radiation can ultimately affect a woman’s fertility.
If the ovaries are near or within a radiation beam, it won’t take long for the radiation to render the ovaries non-functional. In other cases, some women may have to have their reproductive organs removed entirely to reduce the risk of cancer spreading to those areas.
For women diagnosed with any form of gynecologic cancer, there are advanced treatments personalized to their needs.
Preserving Fertility While Managing Cancer
Depending on the diagnosis, a woman may need to act quickly to protect her fertility and talking with an oncologist can help her take the necessary steps to do so.
Often, patients have a small window of time after diagnosis and before starting these treatments. What’s particularly important is for the clinical care team to have a discussion with these women whereby they offer resources — and education — so that patients are empowered to make timely decisions for themselves.
Preserving a woman’s fertility requires an evaluation and discussion with her gynecologic oncologist, a fertility specialist and other members of her oncology team.
With the guidance of these experts, a woman can choose the method that best fits her diagnosis and timeframe before starting cancer treatment. Women may choose to freeze their eggs or a fertilized embryo (or even ovarian tissue), or they may opt for specific drug therapies during treatment.
Is Natural Conception Possible After Cancer?
Some women who are in remission from gynecologic cancers have children naturally, but unfortunately, it’s still somewhat rare. Depending on the treatment and the type of cancer, it’s not always possible. More often than not, they’ll need varying degrees of assistance.
However, as reproductive medicine continues to advance, more fertility solutions could soon be on the horizon for women who face aggressive cancers. In some centers around the world, uterine transplantation is being explored, and the medical community awaits the success of this and other intriguing strategies.
Fertility Care and Cancer Treatment Customized to You
Fighting cancer with fertility in mind starts with a team of experts that rally around you.
It’s a collaboration between the patient, her treating oncologist and a fertility specialist. It takes a team of people, each with their area of expertise, to come together to devise a well-thought-out plan for each patient, based on their unique characteristics.
At AdventHealth, women receive personalized care that helps them survive cancer and plan for their future families, too. Our physicians put a lot of thought into surgical strategies where sometimes fertility can be preserved, and they consider treatment strategies that decrease the likelihood of ovarian failure during treatment.
We approach our cases through multidisciplinary care, so our patients have multiple experts from different disciplines within cancer care, each looking at the same case to provide that comprehensive outlook and perspective that really gives patients the best care possible.
If you or someone you love faces a cancer diagnosis, we’re here to help you through compassionate cancer care from experts you can count on. Learn more about our gynecologic cancer programs in your area.