A cervical cancer diagnosis often brings a mix of emotions and questions to a woman’s mind. Patients often have concerns over the effect their treatment plan will have on their fertility. Here are some important points to consider when figuring out a treatment plan with your physician.
- Educating yourself on different treatment options that could be available to you is key in helping you advocate for a plan that will best preserve your fertility.
- Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation may all impact your ability to conceive.
- Emotional support will be critical during this time.
Be aware of all treatment plans that could be available to you
It is important to educate yourself on any alternate treatment plans that you could be qualified for. Doing so will give you a strong foundation upon which to advocate for a treatment plan that will have the highest chance of protecting your fertility. Also, do not hesitate to ask any questions about your treatment plan to your physician. Since individual cases vary, this is your best source for obtaining the most information about your own case. This will also help you form a strong and supportive bond between you and your physician.
Common treatment plans may affect your fertility
Surgery is often used to treat cervical cancer. Depending on the size of your tumor and the stage of cancer you are in, chemotherapy and/or radiation may also be included in the treatment plan. A hysterectomy, the partial or complete removal of the uterus, will prevent a woman from being able to bear children. If the cancer is caught early enough, a radical trachelectomy may be performed. The cervix is removed, but the uterus remains. So the woman may still be able to become pregnant and give birth via cesarean section.
It is important to note that chemotherapy and radiation can also affect fertility. Certain chemotherapy drugs can harm the eggs inside a woman’s ovaries. This results in reduced or complete infertility. They will also distort a woman’s menstrual cycle even after treatment has finished. The ovaries and uterus may also become damaged from radiation.
As a result, women hoping to start a family will often look into egg or embryo freezing before starting treatment. Once it is over, they may either use their eggs to carry a child themselves or use a surrogate to help start a family.
Make sure you have all the support you can get during your treatment
Going through cancer treatment will inevitably be difficult. Counseling professionals, such as oncology social workers and therapists, are available. CancerCare offers counseling over the phone and the American Psychosocial Oncology Society (APOS) helps connect you with professionals who are experienced with working with these types of cases in your area. Support groups are also available for women going through treatment.
Remember that you are not alone. Your physician, family, friends, and any professional help you choose to seek out are here for you. Do not hesitate to reach out to them.