Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month: The Effects of Cancer Treatment on Your Fertility

Each September, we turn our attention to Ovarian Cancer Awareness. It’s important to know that the risks for this type of cancer increase with age. Ovarian cancer is considered rare in women under the age of 40, with about half of all cases detected in those aged 63 or older. Yet women of all ages can be at risk of ovarian cancer –– including those of childbearing age. Unfortunately, cancer treatment can affect your fertility and make it more difficult to conceive.

For women who want to conceive, but are facing a cancer diagnosis — whether ovarian or another form of cancer — balancing effective treatment and preserving fertility is a huge challenge.

Cancer treatments that present risks to fertility

  • Chemotherapy (chemo) drugs carry the highest risk of damaging eggs and/or affecting fertility. The intensity of the risk depends on age, the type of chemo drug and dosage.
  • Targeted therapy, such as Bevacizumab, has been found to cause permanent ovarian failure.
  • Bone marrow or stem cell transplants usually involve high pre-transplant doses of chemo (sometimes with radiation) throughout the body. In most cases, this permanently stops the ovaries from releasing eggs.
  • Radiation therapy can scar the uterus and damage the pituitary gland (which signals the ovaries to release eggs). High doses of radiation treatment to the abdomen or pelvis can destroy some or all of the eggs in the ovaries and may cause infertility.
  • Surgeries to treat certain cancers involve removing vital reproductive organs like the uterus (womb) and ovaries. Yet in the early stages of ovarian or cervical cancer, one ovary (and eggs) and the uterus may be saved, making pregnancy possible. Other pre-cancerous conditions can be corrected with surgical procedures designed to improve your chances of fertility.

Preserving fertility in women with cancer

There are several steps women can take to preserve their fertility. At Kofinas Fertility Group, we offer a range of solutions, including:

  • Cryopreservation ­– Embryos or mature, unfertilized eggs are frozen for future use. When you’re ready to become pregnant, the embryos or eggs are thawed. Once thawed, the embryos are ready for implantation. Once the eggs are fertilized, they can be implanted.
  • Egg donation – Healthy eggs are removed from a donor’s ovaries, joined with sperm in the lab, then inserted into the uterus.

Despite the miraculous capabilities the female body possesses to conceive, carry and deliver healthy babies, life and health can get in the way.

Whether you’re struggling to conceive, want to carefully time your pregnancy, or are concerned about your health and fertility, the compassionate, board-certified doctors at New York’s Kofinas Fertility Group are ready to listen. With specialized experience in fertility solutions and the latest technology, we are dedicated to making your dreams of becoming a parent come true.

Call 718-340-3611 or click here to request an appointment today.