How Cancer Treatments Can Cause Infertility in Women

 Beating a cancer is an extraordinary piece of good new but, for some women, it is actually the beginning of another nightmare. It has been confirmed that some cancer treatments can cause infertility in women. In a chronic situation, women who are suffering from infertility will not be able to conceive and bear a child. In order to avoid this undesirable circumstance, it will be quite helpful to be aware of the possible side-effects of each of the cancer treatments that are currently in use.

           Am I Infertile?

You are possibly experiencing infertility if you have made several, serious attempts within a year to get pregnant, but all to no avail. Your doctor may diagnose you as infertile:

  • If your ovaries don’t have healthy eggs.
  • If you sustain significant damage to the other parts of the reproductive system that may hinder egg fertilization.
  • If an egg that is already fertilized cannot implant and grow inside the uterus.

How Different Cancer Treatments Can Affect Fertility in Women?

Make sure you extensively consult with your physician before eventually deciding on the most appropriate cancer treatment for you. However, highlighted below are the ways some cancer treatments can cause infertility in women:

  • Chemotherapy: It is difficult to predict that a woman may become infertile after undergoing chemotherapy. However, most chemo drugs can damage a woman’s eggs, but the efficacy of this depends on her age, the kind of drugs she takes, and the doses of such chemo drugs.

The chemo drugs most likely to cause egg damage and infertility are:

  • Busulfan
  • Carboplatin
  • Carmustine (BCNU)
  • Chlorambucil
  • Cisplatin
  • Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan ®)
  • Dacarbazine
  • Doxorubicin (Adriamycin®)
  • Ifosfamide
  • Lomustine (CCNU)
  • Mechlorethamine
  • Melphalan
  • Procarbazine
  • Temozolomide

On the other hand, the chemo drugs that have a low risk of damaging the eggs include:

  • 5-fluorouracil (5-FU)
  • Bleomycin
  • Cytarabine
  • Dactinomycin
  • Daunorubicin
  • Fludarabine
  • Gemcitabine
  • Idarubicin
  • Methotrexate
  • Vinblastine
  • Vincristine

Pay attention to the following warnings about chemotherapy: Don’t get pregnant shortly before, during or shortly after your chemo; it could harm your child.

  • Targeted and immune therapies: The drugs used in targeted and immune cancer therapies have not been found to pose serious infertility danger to women but with the exception of Bevacizumab (Avastin®), which can cause ovarian failure. Thalidomide and lenalidomide can cause a high degree of birth defects. Similarly, tyrosine kinase inhibitors(TKIs) like imatinib (Gleevec®) can cause birth defects.
  • Bone marrow and stem cell transplant: This therapy involves using high doses of chemo. Hence, women who are having the bone marrow and stem cell transplant may have already had their bodies invaded by too much radiation.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy involves using high-energy rays to attack cancerous cells. In this case, such radiation is capable of damaging woman’s ovaries.
  • Cancer surgery: It has been discovered that some parts of the reproductive system may be rendered useless or removed entirely during cancer surgery. For example, uterus or ovaries may be removed as part of the cancer treatment. As a result of this, it will be impossible for the affected patient/woman to be pregnant.
  • Hormone cancer therapy: A cancer-treating drug such as tamoxifen can cause a birth defect. Some hormones actually put women into a temporary menopause.