This section is for women who want information about the effects of cancer treatment on their fertility (the ability to have children). It explains the possible effects of treatments and ways of preserving or protecting your fertility.
Being told you have cancer and that the treatment may make you infertile can be very difficult. For some women the possibility of losing their fertility can be as difficult to accept as the cancer diagnosis itself. You may have planned to have children in the future or may not have thought much about it before now. You may find it helpful to talk to someone about how you feel. We have more information about this and the support that’s available.
Female reproductive system
Fertility in women depends on having:
- a supply of eggs from the ovaries
- suitable hormone levels
- a healthy womb (uterus).
You’re born with a large number of eggs and as you get older, the number and quality of your eggs decreases. When there are very few left, you go through the menopause.
To have a child, one of your eggs needs to be fertilised by a sperm. Once a month, from puberty to menopause, one of the ovaries releases an egg.
This process is controlled by hormones (the body’s chemical messengers) which are produced by the pituitary gland (in the brain) and the ovaries. The ovaries make the main female hormones – oestrogen and progesterone.
The egg moves along the fallopian tube where it can be fertilised by a sperm. Then it continues to the womb (uterus), where it can bury itself into the womb lining and grow into a baby. Hormones prepare the lining of the womb for the fertilised egg. If the egg isn’t fertilised, you have a period.