The Cancers That Affect Women’s Fertility
As cancer affects women at younger ages, concerns about having a baby add to the mix.
Cancer can cause many changes in your life. If you’re a woman, you may not only be worried about what you’ll need to do to beat cancer and restore your health. Depending on your age, you may also have the added concern of wondering whether you will still be able to get pregnant and have a baby in the future.
Some types of cancer won’t affect your ability to get or stay pregnant after treatment. But others may make it difficult or impossible to conceive or carry a baby to term. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), if you have cancer before age 35, you have a better chance of becoming pregnant than if you get cancer at a later age and still want to become pregnant after treatment.
Some of the cancers affecting women that may also affect the ability to get or stay pregnant include:
- Uterine Cancer: Uterine cancer appears in the muscle, tissues or lining of your uterus, or womb. Cancer of the lining of the uterus used to affect mostly older women but is becoming more common in women who are still able to have children. If you have advanced cancer, you may need a hysterectomy, an operation that removes the uterus. New treatments for early cancer of the uterine lining may help you avoid this surgery.
- Ovarian Cancer: Your ovaries make and release eggs every month. Your doctor may need to take out one or both of your ovaries if you have ovarian cancer.
- Cervical Cancer: This type of cancer affects the cervix, the lower part of the womb. If the cancer is found early, a treatment that only removes cancerous cells may make it possible to keep your cervix. It may need to be removed if your cancer is more advanced.
- Breast Cancer: Treatments that help your body attack cancer cells may also cause problems getting pregnant. During chemotherapy, you receive drugs that kill cells in the body that divide quickly. The treatment may also affect your body’s ability to release eggs. You may be able to get pregnant once you end treatment or may have lasting problems. You’re more likely to have difficulty getting pregnant if you’ve had both chemotherapy and radiation therapy, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
Pregnancy After Cancer
If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and think you may want to have a baby at a later time, you may be able to freeze eggs before your cancer treatment begins. After your cancer treatment is over, in-vitro fertilization (IVF) may help you get pregnant. During IVF, eggs are mixed with sperm to create embryos. Then one or more embryos are placed in your uterus.
Using a surrogate may be a good choice if you’ve frozen your eggs or embryos but can’t carry a baby yourself. This may be a choice if you had a hysterectomy and no longer have a uterus, for example. Surrogates are women who volunteer or are paid to have babies for people who can’t carry a baby themselves.
Dealing with a cancer diagnosis can bring up lots of questions and concerns, no matter what age you are or what type of cancer you have. If you are young enough to still consider starting or expanding your family in the future, talk to your doctor to find out what you can do now to protect your chances of having a baby if and when you’re ready. To find out more go to PIHHealth.org/WomensHealth
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