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Fertility and cervical cancer

Read about the effects of treatment on your fertility. This includes some treatments for abnormal cervical cells (pre cancerous changes) and treatment for cervical cancer.

Treatment for abnormal cervical cells and pregnancy

Treatment for abnormal cervical cells (or pre cancerous changes) will not usually affect your ability to become pregnant, unless you have a hysterectomy.  

Cone Biosy and LLETZ (large loop excision of the transformation zone)

A cone biopsy or LLETZ is used to treat some women with abnormal cervical smears and some women with early stage cervical women. For example a stage 1A cervical cancer.  

Treatment with a cone or LLETZ have a small increased risk of giving birth early and having a low birth weight baby. Laser ablation does not increase the risk of you having problems with your pregnancy.

    Researchers looked at all the studies into the effects of CIN or Stage 1A cervical cancer treatment on pregnancy and published a systematic review of their findings. They found that women who had cone biopsy or LLETZ treatments were at a slightly higher risk of :

    • giving birth early (before 37 weeks) and the risk was higher in women who had treatment that was more than 10mm deep
    • having a baby with a low birth weight (less than 2.5 kg)

    Women who had a cone biopsy were more likely to have a caesarean section. Those women who had a LLETZ had a slightly higher risk of their waters breaking early (premature rupture of membranes). 

    You may feel worried about these risks, but do bear in mind:

    • the risk of developing serious side effects during pregnancy is small
    • if you have cervical abnormalities, having the recommended treatment is very important for your health
    • your doctor will talk through the treatment options with you, and discuss any risks and side effects, including effects on future pregnancies

    Surgery for early cervical cancer

    You usually have a hysterectomy to treat early cervical cancer. You have your womb and cervix removed and the top of your vagina. Sadly, this means that you can no longer have children.

    For some very early cervical cancers, it is possible to remove most of the cervix. But leave the womb and opening of the cervix behind, so that you might be able to become pregnant and have a baby afterwards. This is called a radical trachelectomy.

    It is not always possible for your surgeon to know before surgery whether a trachelectomy is possible. They might not know for sure how far up into the cervix the cancer has grown until they do your operation.

    You could ask your surgeon whether a trachelectomy is possible in your situation.

    Radiotherapy

    Having radiotherapy to treat cervical cancer will affect the womb, so that it is not possible to have children afterwards. Radiotherapy and some chemotherapy drugs also can affect the ovaries bringing on an early menopause. 

    The production of sex hormone by the ovaries usually starts to fall from about 3 months after the start of treatment. As this is gradual, it is still important to use effective contraception during this time because it might still be possible for you to become pregnant. 

    Losing your fertility

    Losing fertility can be very difficult to cope with if you wanted to have a child or to complete your family. Even if you were not planning to have any children in the future, the loss of your fertility can be quite a shock.

    It is the end of a particular phase of your life. You will have all the feelings that come with a natural change of life, but on top of having to cope with a diagnosis of cancer.

    Finding support

    It may help you to share your worries or sense of loss with other women who have been through similar experiences. You may be able to find other women who feel as you do through your local cancer support group.

    If you feel you need more help than a support group can provide, talk to your GP, nurse or consultant about finding some counselling.

    For general information and support:

    Contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040 (Open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday) 
    Last reviewed: 
    10 Jun 2014
    • Cancer and its management (6th edition)
      J Tobias and D Hochhauser
      Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2010

    • Management of cervical cancer
      Scottish Intercollegiate Guideline Network (SIGN), 2008

    • Cervical cancer: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow up
      C Haie-Meder and others
      Annals of Oncology 21: 2010; (suppl 5): v37-40

    • Fertility-sparing surgery for early cervical cancer - Approach to less radical surgery
      SK Raju (and others) (2012)
      International Journal of Gynecological Cancer. 2012,  22(2):311-317

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