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Fertility and Pregnancy After Cancer Treatment

Hear how cancer patients took steps to increase their chances of fertility and pregnancy after undergoing chemotherapy or other cancer treatments.

Fertility and Pregnancy After Cancer Treatment

When first facing a cancer diagnosis, pregnancy might seem like the furthest thing from your mind. But for many patients it’s an important consideration, even if you don’t have immediate plans to have a child.

Here are answers to the most popular fertility and cancer treatment questions, supported by our The Patient Story community members. If you want to read all stories that touch on the issue of fertility preservation, go to our stories section.

Does cancer treatment cause infertility?

Chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery treatments for cancer patients all have the potential to adversely affect vital reproductive organs in both women and men. These effects are not always permanent, however. 

If not permanent, your fertility after cancer, and how long you may need to wait following treatment to attempt pregnancy, depends on a variety of factors. For women in particular your age, type of cancer, and type of treatment can all influence fertility. Men also may need to wait for a few years after treatment before any sperm damaged by chemotherapy is replaced.

How do you know your personal fertility risk?

In short, ask the professionals.

Some patients, like Joyce Yu, first learned about the risks chemotherapy posed to her fertility from her oncology nurse navigator. Joyce noted, “Because I am 23, my nurse navigator did not want me to regret not trying to pursue the potential options out there to preserve my fertility.”

Read Joyce’s full egg retrieval story →

Everyone’s experience will be different, but your doctor will be able to walk you through your personal case. They may evaluate your current fertility, try to estimate your risk for infertility or early menopause, and outline your options for maximizing fertility chances post-treatment.

What are the options for preserving fertility?

In the best circumstances, it’s possible to prepare for a future pregnancy before you undergo cancer treatment. For women, this often (but not always) means going the route of In vitro fertilization (IVF) to collect and store eggs for later. For men, banking healthy sperm before treatment may be your doctor’s recommendation.

Unfortunately, this sort of preparation does take time, which it tough to prioritize when it’s so important to begin chemotherapy or other treatments as soon as possible.

For Joyce, her biggest concern about starting the IVF process was simple.

Timing! I knew the minimum time needed was 2 weeks for hormone therapy. With this disease, I was worried if my body was going to allow enough time for me to go through with this IVF process.

Rick, a testicular cancer survivor who underwent removal surgery, noted, “even though you probably should just in case something goes wrong, it’s very unlikely for something to go wrong during the surgery. But before you do chemo, they 100-percent would recommend that you sperm bank if you plan to have children. It’s important in the future.”

Read Rick’s full story →

Getting started with egg retrieval or fertility preservation

In addition to working with your oncologist to understand the risks to your fertility, you’ll need to seek out a medical professional to perform IVF or other fertility preservation options.

For Mila, a cervical cancer patient, she was able to rely on references. “My oncology doctor also put me in touch with a colleague of his that was a really great IVF doctor as well so my gynecological oncologist was really great and instrumental in rallying other doctors and referring me to the IVF and radiation oncologist.” 

Read Mila’s full story →

What does egg harvesting, retrieval & freezing cost?

Fertility treatments can be expensive, and not all health insurance plans will cover the cost of fertility-preserving procedures.

If financing your fertility treatments is a concern, and insurance isn’t an option, there may be other organizations available to help.

As Mila suggests, “Walgreens, for example, has the “Heartbeat Program“. Livestrong has a really great program where they help cancer patients going through IVF so there are organizations out there that know and are advocates and help monetarily.”

For more information, check out the full patient stories

The Patient Story spoke with Joyce Yu to learn about her experience undergoing egg harvesting and retrieval after diagnosis and before chemotherapy to increase her chances of becoming pregnant in the future. 

Read more →

Explore Hugo Toovey’s story about sperm banking after learning that one surgery he underwent, RPLND surgery, could “cause retrograde ejaculation which means you’re infertile. Luckily, I didn’t have that complication, but I do have some frozen sperm there if I needed it in a worst-case scenario.”

Read more →

Hear from Mila Lazarevsky about her experience facing a cervical cancer diagnosis at the age of 29, and how it affected her fertility.

Read more →

Hear how Rick Henrikson dealt with testicular cancer, removal surgery, and the fertility risks involved with the process.

Read more →


Patient Stories on Fertility

Fertility After Cancer Diagnosis, Egg Retrieval & Egg Freezing
From egg harvesting to retrieval, making the decision between freezing eggs or embryos, the process of giving herself shots daily, paying for the procedures, and the paperwork that brought up so many unanticipated questions, Kimberly shares every part of this intimate journey.
Egg Retrieval, Egg Freezing Before Chemotherapy & Cancer Treatment
Explore the egg harvesting, retrieval and freezing journey of a cancer patient who journals her daily schedule and the entire process.
Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Stories: Marginal Zone Lymphoma (MZL) | Kimberly’s Story

Kimberly O., Marginal Zone Lymphoma



1st Symptoms:None at first, routine blood work showed suspicious results, bad nosebleed
Treatment: Chemotherapy (bendamustine & rituximab)
Testicular Cancer Stories: Embryonal Carcinoma, Non-Seminoma, Stage 2B | Hugo Toovey

Hugo T., Non-Seminoma, Stage 2B



Age at Diagnosis: 21
1st Symptoms:
Pea-sized lump on right testicle
Treatment: Surgical removal of right testicle, lymph node resection, chemotherapy

Multiple Myeloma Stories: Light Chain, Stage 2 | Carlos’ Patient Story

Carlos C., Light Chain Multiple Myeloma



Diagnosis: Multiple myeloma, light chain
Cancer Details:
Early stage multiple myeloma usually causes vague symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose
1st Symptoms:
Back pain and spasms
Treatment:
Back surgery to fuse T1 and T2, chemotherapy (RVD) and stem cell transplant
Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Stories: Stage 2A, Adolescent (AYA) Cancer | Logan’s Patient Story

Logan A., Hodgkin's, Stage 2A



Cancer details: Diagnosed at age 15
1st Symptoms:
Lump in neck & fatigue
Treatment:
4 cycles of ABVE-PC chemo
Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Stories: Classical, Stage 2 | Lani’s Patient Story

Lani S., Hodgkin's, Stage 2



Cancer details: Tumor pressing on heart
1st Symptoms: Appendicitis led to CT scan that found tumor
Treatment: ABVD chemotherapy, 7 cycles
Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Stories: Classical, Stage 2 | Danielle’s Patient Story

Danielle D., Hodgkin's, Stage 2



Cancer details: Diagnosed at age 25
1st Symptoms: Swollen lump on right side of neck/chest area, continued to grow
Treatment: ABVD chemotherapy (3 cycles = 6 infusions)
Rectal Cancer Stories: Adenocarcinoma, Stage 3, Colorectal | Catherine’s  Story

Catherine P., Rectal Cancer, Stage 3



Cancer Details: Rectal adenocarcinoma; 98% of rectal and colon cancers are adenocarcinomas
1st Symptoms: Rectal bleeding, constipation, bloating
Treatment: Fertility treatments, chemo, radiation, tumor resection surgery
Breast Cancer Stories: IDC, Stage 2B, ER+, PR+| Caitlin’s Story

Caitlin J., IDC, Stage 2B, ER/PR Positive



Cancer Details: ER/PR positive = estrogen and progesterone receptor positive
1st Symptoms:
Lump found on breast
Treatment:
Lumpectomy, AC/T chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapy (Lupron and Anastrozole)
Breast Cancer Stories:  IDC, Stage 2, Triple Positive (Triple+) | Rach’s Story

Rach D., IDC, Stage 2, Triple Positive



Cancer details: IDC is most common kind of breast cancer.
1st Symptoms: Lump in right breast
Treatment: Neoadjuvant chemotherapy, double mastectomy, targeted therapy, hormone therapy

Resources
  • https://www.cancer.net/survivorship/life-after-cancer/having-baby-after-cancer-pregnancy
  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/in-vitro-fertilization/about/pac-20384716
  • https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/dating-sex-and-reproduction/fertility-concerns-and-preservation-women
  • https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/dating-sex-and-reproduction/fertility-concerns-and-preservation-men

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Fertility After Cancer Diagnosis, Egg Retrieval & Egg Freezing

From egg harvesting to retrieval, making the decision between freezing eggs or embryos, the process of giving herself shots daily, paying for the procedures, and the paperwork that brought up so many unanticipated questions, Kimberly shares every part of this intimate journey. ...
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