Chemotherapy can affect both men and women regarding fertility. If you are of childbearing age, and you or your husband needs to undergo cancer treatment, you should talk with your doctor before starting treatment to learn what changes you may have to your fertility, recommends the National Cancer Institute. Effects of chemotherapy on fertility vary depending on the type of chemotherapy you get, the length of treatment and the type of cancer you have.
Effects on Men
In men, chemo can cause infertility primarily through damage to the lining of the testicles. This damage can reduce or eliminate sperm in the semen, according to Chemocare.com.
Effects on Women
The age of the woman who gets chemotherapy largely affects fertility. Younger women in their 30s, for example, are capable of tolerating higher doses of chemo without going into menopause than women in their 40s. Chemo can also cause ovarian damage or failure. In that case, a woman will have a more difficult time getting pregnant, if she can at all.
About Chemo Drugs
Drugs that belong to a group called alkylating agents are more likely to cause infertility, according to BreastCancer.org. Some examples are cisplatin, busulfan, ifosfamide, cyclophosphamide and melphalan. Other categories of chemo drugs are less likely to cause infertility. They include methotrexate, 5-flurouracil and vincristine.
Options for Women
You may want to consider freezing your eggs before you start chemotherapy. Doctors can freeze fertilized or unfertilized eggs and store them for you to use after you have completed your cancer treatment. Freezing fertilized eggs is a more standard procedure. Freezing unfertilized is a newer procedure and is an attractive option for women who do not have a partner but would like the option of having children someday.
Options for Men
Before beginning cancer treatment, men might want to bank their sperm. Typically, a man would make three to six sperm donations over a two-week period, according to Chemocare.com. Sperm banks can store the donations for up to 50 years without damage.
Use Birth Control
Chemotherapy can disrupt or stop your menstrual cycle. The American Cancer Society warns that you can still get pregnant during this time. You should use birth control if you do not want to get pregnant while you are undergoing cancer treatment.
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