Pelvic radiotherapy or surgical removal of your womb or ovaries will mean you are no longer able to have children. Some chemotherapy drugs may also affect your fertility. This can feel devastating. Infertility is very hard to come to terms with, especially if you were planning to start a family in the future, or to have more children to complete your family. The sense of loss can be very painful and distressing for people of all ages. Sometimes it can feel as though you have actually lost a part of yourself. You may also feel less feminine because you can’t have children.
It’s important to discuss any concerns you have about your fertility with your healthcare team before treatment starts. They can discuss what options might be available if you’d like to have a child in the future. For example, you may be able to store embryos (fertilised eggs), or have your eggs frozen and stored for future use. This would have to happen before treatment starts. Ovarian tissue that contains eggs can also be removed for future use, but this is still an experimental technique.
If you would like to have fertility treatment before your cancer treatment, your hospital team will refer you to a fertility specialist. Embryo storage may be available on the NHS, but you often have to pay privately for other treatments.
People react differently to the risk of infertility. Some women may come to terms with it more quickly and feel that dealing with the cancer is more important. Others may accept the news calmly when they start treatment, and find that they don’t feel the full impact until the treatment is over and they are sorting out their lives again.
There is no right or wrong way to react. If you have a partner, it’s important for them to be involved in any discussions about fertility and future plans. You may both need to speak to a professional counsellor or therapist specialising in fertility problems. They can help you come to terms with your situation.
Your doctor may be able to refer you to a specialist. Our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00 can discuss any problems you may have and they can also help you find a counsellor who can offer you help and advice.