Read about the effects of cervical cancer treatment on your fertility.
Unfortunately, after most treatment for cervical cancer, you won't be able to get pregnant. This is because you may have:
- surgery to remove your womb (a radical hysterectomy)
- radiotherapy as part of your treatment that affects the womb and may stop your ovaries working
Finding out you may no longer get pregnant can be very distressing. Your doctor and specialist nurse will help support you.
Surgery for early cervical cancer
If you have early cervical cancer, it may be possible to have surgery to remove the cancer but leave your womb in place so that you might be able to become pregnant in the future.
Your doctor will take into account your wishes to become pregnant when deciding on treatment.
Cone biopsy or LLETZ
A cone biopsy or LLETZ (large loop excision of the transformation zone) removes an area of cervical tissue. You might have these treatments for very early stage cervical cancer (stage 1A1).
There is a small increase in risk of having the baby early (premature birth) or having a low birth weight after these treatments. This can depend on the amount of cervical tissue that is taken away.
Another option for early cervical cancer (small stage 1 cancer) is a radical trachelectomy. Your doctor (gynaecological oncologist) removes most of the cervix and the upper part of the vagina. They put a permanent stitch around the internal opening of the cervix to hold it closed.
Babies have been born safely to women who have had this type of operation. But there is a risk of miscarriage or premature birth. The babies have to be born by caesarean section due to the permanent stitch.
Radiotherapy and chemotherapy
Having radiotherapy to treat cervical cancer will affect the womb. This means it is not possible to have children afterwards.
Radiotherapy and some chemotherapy drugs can also affect the ovaries, bringing on an early menopause.
Occasionally it’s possible to move the ovaries out of the treatment area before radiotherapy begins, to try to avoid an early menopause. This is done by keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery.
Your eggs or some ovarian tissue can be removed and frozen before starting treatment. The eggs could then be used for fertility treatment and surrogate pregnancy afterwards, but this is very rare.
Losing your fertility
Losing fertility can be very difficult to cope with if you hoped to become pregnant in the future. Even if you were not planning to have any children, the loss of your fertility can be quite a shock. It is the end of a particular phase of your life. You have all the feelings that come with a natural change of life (menopause), but on top of having to cope with a diagnosis of cancer.
If you have recently been diagnosed with cervical cancer and are concerned about your fertility, talk to your specialist cancer doctor. They can refer you to a fertility specialist. They can talk about what options might be available, such as egg freezing.
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 or an online forum.
If you feel you need more help, talk to your GP, nurse or specialist about having counselling.