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.

How Women Can Prevent Hair Loss

Losing one’s hair, as a woman, is not fun or something desirable at all. Up till today, hair loss has been mostly linked to aging—that is, as one gets older, it is indispensable not to lose some strands of one’s hair. However, there are other factors responsible for hair loss against which every affected woman can take conscious steps to prevent.

Causes of hair loss

It is very helpful for you to be aware of the primary causes of hair loss so that you can do everything in your power to fight it. You may lose your hair due to:

  • Genetic factor: It may be in your genes that you will surely lose some of your hair. This condition is referred to as androgenetic alopecia. You can confirm this by merely looking at either of your parents’ hair, noticing any gradual falling off of their hair.
  • Lifestyle choice: Your lifestyle choice may also result in you losing some strands of your hair. If you put pressure on your hair with hairstyles such as braids that are tight or cornrows, they may pull off your hair one at a time. This condition is referred to as traction alopecia. Similarly, the kinds of dyes, brushes, towels or chemicals you use to treat your hair before and after the shower may lead to gradual hair loss.
  • Medical conditions: You may lose some of your hair if you are suffering from any of the following medical conditions: Stress, thyroid disorders, menopause, ingesting too much of Vitamin A, psoriasis, anemia, pregnancy, weight loss, or seborrheic dermatitis.

How you can prevent hair loss

  • Embracing a lifestyle that will not put any pressure on your hair or tightly pulling them out
  • Using a topical medication to treat hair loss. Minoxidil, also known as Rogaine, is the only FDA-approved medication for treating hair loss for women. It is used once a day, and it works by elongating the growth phase of your hair. This medication has been adjudged to be successful by many women who have patiently used it.
  • An iron supplement may be used if your doctor found out that you have low levels of ferritin (a protein that acts as the reservoir for body iron).
  • Hair transplantation may be used, which involves taking tiny hair follicles from one area of your scalp and transplanting them into the affected areas. This may be a permanent solution to your hair loss.

Your dermatologist should be able to identify the main cause of your hair loss and proffer useful solutions. Sometimes, you may be losing your hair because of some other health issues or conditions you are yet to diagnose. This is why it is advisable that you work with your doctor as early as possible.