It’s a disease many of us hope to never experience, and particularly at a young age. That disease, of course, is cancer. Unfortunately, it can be even more devastating than many people think — especially if you are not prepared for all of the possible consequences and challenges that come along with it. Sadly, a new study from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program reveals that many patients do not understand cancer’s effects on fertility and reproductive health. “They found that 80% of women and 74% of men between the ages of 15 and 39 were not aware that cancer therapy can impact their fertility,” according to KMBZ.com.
Thankfully, there’s some good news. While cancer and cancer treatments can significantly reduce fertility, there are also several steps patients can take to increase their chances of having a family naturally.
Freezing Eggs And Sperm
Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy can — and often do — damage viable eggs and sperm. With that in mind, freezing healthy eggs or sperm prior to these treatments is one of the best ways to increase patients’ likelihood of being able to conceive in the future. Patients considering this option may also want to talk to their doctor candidly about artificial insemination, the in vitro fertilization or IVF process, the many types of IVF treatments, and IVF success rates. These are all things patients should discuss upfront now, not after the fact.
Candid, Post-Treatment Discussions
Unfortunately, viable eggs and sperm may not be the only problem resulting from cancer-related illnesses or treatment. Some patients may also experience sexual dysfunction. While it is possible to work around these problems in order to conceive (artificial insemination and IVF can work wonders), open and honest discussions are likely in order, too. Tell doctors about your symptoms. In many cases, these symptoms can be treated and managed with hormone replacement therapy, medical devices, or surgery.
Cancer can cause infertility — or it can make the chances of conceiving naturally significantly less likely. Talk to your doctor about all of your options before, during, and after treatment.