Ovarian Cancer and Fertility: What You Need to Know

Ovarian Cancer and Fertility: What You Need to Know

After being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, a million questions may come to mind about the future, but perhaps the most prominent question is whether ovarian cancer will affect fertility.

The answer depends on several factors, including your treatment plan, age and length of treatment.

There are many options for treatment when it comes to ovarian cancer, but surgery and chemotherapy are common. Surgery to remove the cancerous tumor(s) is typically where the process begins. This may or may not include the removal of both ovaries (oophorectomy) and the removal of the uterus (hysterectomy). Depending on the stage of the cancer, removal of these organs may not be necessary, and fertility may not be affected. A trachelectomy, the removal of the lower portion of your cervix, which is common with cervical cancer, may allow you to still get pregnant on your own.

Chemotherapy treatments may threaten fertility temporarily, and in some cases permanently, by preventing your body from releasing eggs or producing estrogen. The threat to fertility largely depends on the type of chemotherapy. Some chemotherapy drugs show a correlation with infertility while others do not.

Bone marrow transplants, experimental cancer drugs, hormone therapy and stem cell transplants are also used to treat ovarian cancer in some instances and may also affect fertility in patients.

Before you start cancer treatment, speak with your doctor to evaluate your risks and weigh your options. They may suggest fertility preservation before undergoing treatment. One of the most common ways to promote pregnancy after ovarian cancer treatment is through the freezing of your eggs or embryo. You may be able to use the eggs or embryo to get pregnant after treatment through a procedure called in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Whether or not you take steps to reduce the risk of fertility problems before or after treatment, there are still ways to have a child. Consider using an egg or embryo donor, seeking a surrogate or exploring adoption.