Q: Are some cancer treatments less harmful to fertility than others?
A: Radiation is most harmful to fertility if it is directed towards the reproductive organs, but if it's outside that area then it does not have to affect fertility at all. I
There are four common cancer treatments. These treatments are:
- hormone therapy
Each of these cancer treatments pose a unique angle to treating cancer and also a unique risk to fertility.
Chemotherapy can cause both short term and long term infertility in both men and women. This is not always the case as age, length of treatment, dosage specifics and type of cancer are all deciding factors in whether or not fertility is maintained.
Radiation is most harmful to fertility if it is directed towards the reproductive organs, but if it's outside that area then it does not have to affect fertility at all. If the area to be radiated is not located near the reproductive organs, there could be no effect on fertility. If the radiation needs to occur near the reproductive organs, but does not include these organs, the testes or the ovaries can be protected during the radiation treatment.
The combination of chemotherapy and radiation is the most harmful to fertility.
The least harmful cancer treatments are hormone therapy and surgical treatment, as long as the reproductive organs do not need to be removed to eradicate the cancer. Hormone therapy can cause short term infertility or impotence, but this often returns to normal after the hormone therapy is stopped.
Surgery to eradicate the cancer will only effect the part of the body affected by the cancer. For instance, if the cancer is in the breast the surgical removal will not affect the ovaries. Most of the time the surgical removal of cancer is followed up with chemotherapy, radiation or both in order to ensure all of the cancer cells are destroyed.