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.
tend to affect the ability to have
children in men and
Some chemotherapy 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