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Fertility Issues in Girls and Women with Cancer

Treatment for cancer may cause changes to a girl’s or a woman’s fertility.

Credit: iStock

Many cancer treatments can affect a girl’s or woman’s fertility. Most likely, your doctor will talk with you about whether or not cancer treatment may increase the risk of, or cause, infertility. However, not all doctors bring up this topic. Sometimes you, a family member, or parents of a child being treated for cancer may need to initiate this conversation.

Whether or not fertility is affected depends on factors such as:

  • your baseline fertility
  • your age at the time of treatment
  • the type of cancer and treatment(s)
  • the amount (dose) of treatment
  • the length (duration) of treatment
  • the amount of time that has passed since cancer treatment
  • other personal health factors

It’s important to learn how the recommended cancer treatment may affect fertility before starting treatment, whenever possible. Consider asking questions such as:

  • Could treatment increase the risk of, or cause, infertility? Could treatment make it difficult to become pregnant or carry a pregnancy in the future?
  • Are there other recommended cancer treatments that might not cause fertility problems?
  • Which fertility option(s) would you advise for me?
  • What fertility preservation options are available at this hospital? At a fertility clinic?
  • Would you recommend a fertility specialist (such as a reproductive endocrinologist) who I could talk with to learn more?
  • Is condom use advised, based on the treatment I’m receiving?
  • Is birth control recommended?
  • After treatment, what are the chances that my fertility will return? How long might it take for my fertility to return?

Learn more about managing and coping with side effects related to Sexual Health Issues in Women.

Cancer Treatments May Affect Your Fertility

Cancer treatments are important for your future health, but they may harm reproductive organs and glands that control fertility. Changes to your fertility may be temporary or permanent. Talk with your health care team to learn what to expect, based on your treatment(s):

Emotional Considerations and Support for Fertility Issues

For some women, infertility can be one of the most difficult and upsetting long-term effects of cancer treatment. While it might feel overwhelming to think about your fertility right now, most people benefit from having talked with their doctor (or their child’s doctor, when a child is being treated for cancer) about how treatment may affect their fertility and about options to preserve fertility.

Although most people want to have children at some point in their life, families can come together in many ways. For extra support during this time, reach out to your health care team with questions or concerns, as well as to professionally led support groups.

If you are the parent of a young girl or teen with cancer, this video of fertility options for young female cancer patients from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia may help you talk with your daughter and her doctor.

Fertility Preservation Options for Girls and Women

Women and girls with cancer have options to preserve their fertility. These procedures may be available at the hospital where you are receiving cancer treatment or at a fertility preservation clinic.

Talk with your doctor about the best option(s) for you based on your age, the type of cancer you have, and the specific treatment(s) you will be receiving. The success rate, financial cost, and availability of these procedures varies.

If you choose to take steps to preserve your fertility, your doctor and a fertility specialist will work together to develop a treatment plan that includes fertility preservation, whenever possible.

Finding More Information, Support, and Clinical Trials

These organizations also have information about fertility-preservation options for people with cancer:

 

Listen to tips on how to manage changes in sexuality and fertility caused by cancer treatments such as radiation therapy.
(Type: MP3 | Time: 3:55 | Size: 3.7MB)