General Health

Strategies For Cancer Patients To Retain Fertility

Pregnancy and Cancer

A cancer diagnosis can drastically alter your life, including your desire to have children following treatment. The type of cancer you have, how it is being treated, and your general health determine whether you can become pregnant after undergoing cancer therapies.

Men and women may find it challenging to become parents if they have battled cancer. Before forming or expanding a family, survivors and their partners must consider several factors. Pregnancy following cancer therapy is frequently risk-free for both the mother and the fetus. The likelihood of a cancer recurrence does not appear to increase during pregnancy. Nevertheless, some women might be advised to postpone trying for a child. How long will depend on several things:

  • The kind and stage of cancer
  • Treatment modality
  • Age of a woman

Some medical professionals advise against women becoming pregnant for the first six months after completing chemotherapy. As the theory goes, any damaged eggs will depart the body within those first six months. Other medical professionals advise delaying trying for a baby for 2 to 5 years. It is due to the possibility that cancer may return more frequently in its earliest years. Additionally, it is more difficult to treat cancer while pregnant.

Cancer risk in infants

Many cancer survivors are concerned that their offspring could also develop the disease. Research shows no increased risk of cancer in the offspring of cancer patients or cancer survivors. However, some malignancies pass down from parents to offspring. There may be an increased risk if you have one of these genetic malignancies. Consult a genetic counselor or your doctor about having children. They can aid in your understanding of genetics and cancer risk.

Recurrence risk for cancer

Pregnancy does not appear to cause cancer to recur, according to studies. Some medical professionals urge breast cancer patients to wait two years before attempting pregnancy. Some hormones that increase during pregnancy are associated with developing breast cancer cells. However, there is no evidence to suggest that being pregnant within two years of finishing treatment increases a woman’s risk of developing cancer. According to research, breast cancer is even less likely to recur with a subsequent pregnancy.

Infertility

Having children after specific cancer therapies can be challenging or impossible. Before starting treatment, every man and woman who wants to become a parent should discuss the possibility of infertility with their medical team. It would be best if you discussed options for preserving fertility.

Which cancer is most prevalent during pregnancy?

Pregnant women are often diagnosed with the following types of cancer:

  • cervical cancer
  • breast cancer
  • melanoma
  • Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • leukemia
  • ovarian cancer
  • colorectal cancer
  • thyroid cancer

Diagnosis

Your doctor might want you to undergo specific tests if they suspect cancer when you’re pregnant so they can make an accurate diagnosis. These could consist of:

  • Biopsy

With a biopsy, medical professionals take a tissue sample to be examined in a lab for cancer. For women who are pregnant, biopsies are regarded as safety procedures.

  • X-ray

Low radiation doses are used in X-rays to provide images of the interior of your body. The amount of radiation used in an X-ray isn’t high enough, according to experts, to harm an unborn child. However, if possible, pregnant women should wear a lead shield to cover their abdomen during an X-ray.

  • Ultrasound

During an ultrasound, sound waves are used to produce images of particular body parts. It is regarded as a secure diagnostic procedure during pregnancy.

  • CT scan

With the help of an X-ray machine and a computer, a CT scan creates comprehensive images of your internal organs. Most of the time, having a chest or head CT scan during pregnancy is safe.

  • MRI scan for magnetic resonance imaging

A computer and magnets are used in an MRI to view inside your body. Because it doesn’t involve ionizing radiation, it is typically regarded as a safe test for expectant mothers.

The impact of cancer on pregnancy

Many times, having cancer won’t necessitate ending your pregnancy. You might, however, need to deliver your child earlier than expected in specific circumstances. You and your healthcare team must discuss the risks and advantages of controlling your cancer during pregnancy. You’ll need to see an oncologist in addition to your specialty.

Cancer patients who are pregnant have the same therapeutic options as cancer patients who are not pregnant. During pregnancy, the manner and timing of therapy may change. The following variables will all affect your treatment options:

  • Type of cancer, and where is it located?
  • What stage of cancer do you have?
  • How far along in your pregnancy are you?
  • Your individual decisions

Strategies for retaining fertility

There are ways for women and girls with cancer to maintain their fertility. A fertility preservation clinic and the hospital where you are having cancer treatment may provide these treatments. They consist of:

  • Hormone treatment
  • Bank of sperm
  • Donor embryos or eggs
  • Freezing of eggs or embryos
  • Surrogacy
  • Surgery to prevent conception

Not everyone should choose options to preserve fertility.

Although it’s uncommon, some women do develop cancer during pregnancy. A pregnant cancer patient frequently has the same outlook as a cancer patient who isn’t pregnant. You should discuss the best strategy to treat your cancer while pregnant with your doctor.

References:

  1. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/fertility-and-sexual-side-effects/fertility-and-women-with-cancer/how-cancer-treatments-affect-fertility.html
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/cancer-in-pregnancy#outlook
  3. https://www.cancercenter.com/community/blog/2020/12/cancer-and-fertility

Author

Navya Koshi

Navya Mariam Koshi is a diligent, self-motivated Pharm D graduate using this platform to leverage her skills in this field to provide excellent and exceptional health care services to the public.

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