Cancer is defined as any uncontrolled growth of cells. There are many different types of cancer, and they can affect people in many ways. Depending on the type of cancer one has, it may be more challenging to conceive. Changes in reproductive functions arising from cancer or treatment present challenges for couples experiencing infertility or subfertility (inability to conceive). The potential effects of cancer treatment on fertility are many, though they may not always be permanent. If you are about to start cancer treatment, you may want to consult with a specialist in oncofertility in Encino to determine the potential effects. Here are some common effects of cancer treatment on fertility.
Table of Contents
One common effect of cancer treatment on fertility is the risk of early menopause. Early menopause can happen due to radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery, disturbing the hypothalamic-pituitary axis (HPA). The HPA consists of hormones produced by the pituitary gland and ovaries. These hormones regulate ovulation and menstruation. Without the HPA, it may be difficult for women to conceive.
Treatment-induced Ovarian Failure (or Teloovulatory Dysfunction)
Another effect of cancer treatment on fertility is treatment-induced ovarian failure or teloovulatory dysfunction. This can happen as a result of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. The treatment can cause damage to the ovaries, which may interfere with a woman’s ability to conceive and carry out a pregnancy. Germ cell failure can also occur. This is when cells responsible for creating germ cells fail or divide abnormally, leading to infertility or a condition called gonadal dysgenesis.
Uterine or Tubal Scarring
Uterine scarring can also happen due to radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or surgery. Scar tissue can appear in the uterus or fallopian tubes, which may interfere with the ability to conceive.
Uterine Vascular Insufficiency
Another effect of cancer treatment on fertility is uterine vascular insufficiency. This happens when the blood supply to the uterus is compromised due to surgery or radiation therapy. It can lead to endometrial atrophy (thinning out of the uterus lining) when this happens.
Egg Number Depletion
Egg number depletion is another possible effect of cancer treatment on fertility. This happens when healthy eggs are needlessly destroyed due to chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Women with breast or ovarian cancer may be at risk for this. They often undergo chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments regardless of whether the tumor responds to estrogen (lumpectomy) or progesterone (bilateral mastectomy).
Besides the effects of cancer treatment on fertility, organ damage can also happen. The bladder, ureters, kidneys, ovaries, or uterus can be affected by chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Damage to these organs may interfere with the ability to conceive and carry out a pregnancy.
In summary, the potential effects of cancer treatment on fertility are many. They can happen due to chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, or the disease itself. Common effects include early menopause, treatment-induced ovarian failure or teloovulatory dysfunction, uterine scarring, egg number depletion, organ damage, and uterine vascular insufficiency. All of this can lead to infertility. If you are bout to start cancer treatment, you may want to consider fertility preservation.