Cancer treatment

If you're not sure what to ask your GP or if you simply don’t feel comfortable talking to them about fertility, come and speak with Genea’s Fertility GP. She specialises in fertility and can organise a straightforward assessment of your fertility or refer you to the right person to get help.

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Learning you have cancer can be an incredibly traumatic time in life. You will likely have hundreds of questions filling your head and dozens of worrying thoughts. To receive the double blow that the treatment that may save your life will likely rob you of your fertility can be too much for many.

We understand the overwhelming situation you face and we’re here to help with simple advice and effective treatments to maximise the potential of having children after your cancer treatment.

Why will my cancer or my cancer treatment affect my fertility?

Sadly, cancer treatment and, cancer itself, can cause infertility. The nature of many of the treatments used means that they are effective at destroying healthy cells along with the cancerous ones. Your infertility may only be temporary but in some cases the impact is permanent, similarly, the infertility may be partial or it could be complete.

Chemotherapy drugs used for treating cancer can affect any tissue where cells are being made quickly, including, for men, the tubules of the testes. The detrimental effects such cancer drugs have on the manufacture of sperm are often permanent and cancer treatment can also impact movement (motility) and structure (morphology). Cancer treatment can also damage chromosomes and affect the production of the hormone testosterone which can impact your sex drive and your ability to get an erection.

In women, treatments to get rid of cancer can also reduce the number of eggs in your ovaries, impact your hormonal balance or production or interfere with the way your ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus or cervix work. It can also bring on menopause early.

There are a number of factors which will determine your specific risk of infertility from chemotherapy:

  • your age;
  • the specific drugs used;
  • the dose; and
  • the length of treatment time.

The good news - how will my doctor help preserve my fertility?

There are a number of options to preserve fertility for people facing treatment for cancer. Essentially, they fall into two categories:

Pre-cancer treatment

Before you begin your treatment we collect, freeze and store your eggs, sperm or embryos for use once you are well again.

Genea's scientists use a couple of different methods to freeze your precious eggs, sperm and embryos, depending on what is the best way to ensure they are healthy and ready when you are.

Sperm is frozen using the traditional method because that's the best way to ensure it's viable when defrosted.

You can also have confidence your precious eggs and embryos will be in the best shape possible due to the technique we use to freeze them. Called vitrification - our scientists liken it to snap freezing and it’s a method which avoids the formation of damaging ice crystals in the eggs and embryos. We've been using this technology since early 2006, in fact we recently invented an instrument to do it automatically.

You can read more about egg, sperm and embryo freezing in our Fertility Treatments section.

Next steps

Time is of the essence when it comes to protecting your fertility ahead of cancer treatment. The doctor treating your cancer is likely to raise the issue with you but, if not, be sure to bring it up yourself. You can also get in touch with us to arrange an appointment with a Genea Fertility Specialist who will develop the right plan for you.

Your Genea Fertility Specialist will be able to discuss important areas such as:

  • whether your diagnosis and cancer treatment will affect your ability to have children;
  • your options for preserving fertility, given your diagnosis and the urgency of treatment;
  • whether the recommended fertility treatment would affect your cancer treatment (delay it or impact its effectiveness); and
  • if or how your cancer treatment could affect the health of your future children.

Post-cancer treatment

If you've already had treatment for cancer that has affected your fertility or left you infertile, there are still options open to you such as egg, sperm or embryo donation or surrogacy.