Although most people see hair loss when
it comes to chemotherapy side effects, infertility is not out of the picture; some chemotherapy treatments may
reduce or completely stop the inability to have children in both men and women. Certain chemo agents may
stop the ovaries (women) from producing eggs, causing conception impossible; in men, chemotherapy may reduce the
production of number of sperm, affecting the sperm’s ability to reach and fertilize a woman’s egg. Therefore, it is
important to talk to your health care provider about the risk of infertility before you start treatment if you are
planning to have children.
In both women and men, infertility may be temporary or
permanent, and will depend on the type of chemotherapy drugs used. Drugs that
tend to affect the ability to have
children in men and
drugs may temporarily or permanently damage the ovaries, making them unable to produce eggs. In some
women, the menstruation may become irregular or stop. Younger women have higher chance to have their normal
periods back, and still be able to have children. This is why some women are no longer able to become pregnant
and develop symptoms of menopause: hot flushes, dry skin and vaginal dryness.
What You Can Do?
The good news is
that one third of women will regain their fertility once the treatment is over the ovaries start producing eggs
again and the menstruation cycles return to normal. Therefore, it is important to talk to your doctor about your
fertility before undergoing chemotherapy if you are planning to have children. Many options can be considered
such as storing embryos fertilized eggs.
Fertility in Men
Men also can
experience infertility due to chemotherapy treatment. While some chemotherapy drugs do not affect men’s ability
to have children, others may stop or reduce sperm production (azoospermia or oligospermia) or affect their ability to fertilize a woman’s egg. This problem can be permanent in
some men, preventing them from fathering children. Azoospermia or oligospermia, however,
does not prevent men from getting erection.
What You Can Do?
If you are
planning to have children after the chemotherapy certain medical decisions can be taken by your doctor.
For instance, he may to preserve (or
"bank") some of
your sperm for later use, before starting chemotherapy. In this case, several sperm samples will be taken from
you over one or two weeks. The samples will then be frozen and stored so that they can be used later to try to
fertilize an egg in order to get your partner pregnant.
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