If you are a cancer survivor, firstly congratulations; your strength is commendable. That being said, one of the most difficult decisions that both men and women, who have successfully battled cancer, have to make is that of having a baby.
To be honest, often chemotherapy, radiation, and other treatments, while fighting cancer, end up stimulating other less harmful side effects.
Among side effects, reduced fertility mostly depends on your diagnosis, the type of treatment, and the dosage of medications or radiation. While dealing with harmful cells, they may adversely affect some healthy cells too.
Every case in this matter is different, so we recommend bringing up any questions or worries with your medical team without hesitation. We suppose while treating you, your doctor has discussed about the side effects of your cancer treatment.
Which Treatments Affect Fertility?
It's always better to be aware of whether your cancer treatment might affect your reproductive organs or not. That way it gets a bit easier to deal with the possibilities, both physically and emotionally.
So here is how some cancer treatments can affect your fertility
1. Chemotherapy- Some, not all, chemotherapy drugs tend to lead to infertility. Cyclophosphamide belongs to a group of drugs known as alkylating agents. When given in higher doses, these agents negatively affect your reproductive organs. Other chemotherapy drugs and or their combinations may also affect your fertility.
Good news is that in some cases the gonads are put to rest during chemotherapy by medications, so that there is a lesser chance of damage during treatment.
2. Radiation Treatments- Aimed directly or scattered, radiation treatments also can damage sperm. More if radiation is focused on or near the pelvic area-it can damage or reduce your sperm count. These side effects usually go away after treatment is stopped, but sometimes they can be permanent too. It might be possible to shield the testes, depending on the type and target area of treatment.
3. Surgery- For patients who need surgery for their cancer treatment, doctors may sometimes need to remove parts of the reproductive organs. Then again, it all depends on where the cancer is.
Options For Preserving Fertility:
Now, since you have a fair idea of what are the treatments that can negatively impact your fertility and how, let us tell you that we've got some great news for you, as well.
Yes, it's possible to preserve (technically, cryopreservation) some of your sperm in sperm-banks. Their special facility can freeze and save not only sperm, but also eggs or ovarian tissues. Later, your sperm can be unfrozen and used for attempts to have a baby.
1. Sperm Banking- Standing today, sperm banking has been a pretty common procedure for males. When all hospitals do not offer it, at the same time, it's recommended to opt for a clinic that specializes in sperm banking.
2. Sperm Aspirations- Sperm aspiration is more of an experimental procedure executed on younger teens and boys. In this process, immature sperm cells are removed for future use by in vitro fertilization. When needed, the sperm is used to fertilize the egg outside a woman's uterus and later the fertilized embryo is transferred to the uterus.
Always feel free to consult your doctor openly about your options. In some situations, it might not be a good idea to bank your sperm, as using them later again could put you at the risk of re-introducing cancer cells in your body.
Get The Facts Straight
Go ahead and ask your doctor a lot of questions. Raise all the concerns bothering you.
So on your next visit, you might want to ask your doctor questions like,
How likely will the treatment affect my fertility?
Can something be done to protect my fertility in the course of treatment?
How will I know if my fertility has been affected after the treatment is over?
Ask about all your options, so that both of you can come up with a plan together.
Most importantly, never ever worry that fertility isn't a topic for your doctor. It's not his only job to focus on getting rid of the cancer, but also ensuring the quality of your future life. That's an integral part of the healing process.
Like we say, parenthood need not have to be some sort of sacrifice that one must make for survival.
Got a query? Or a personal survival story to share that might inspire millions? We're listening; the comments section is right below.