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Coping with losing your fertility

You may be dealing with changes to your fertility.

Loss of fertility can be a side effect of some cancer treatments. This means that you will no longer be able to get pregnant. It might be temporary but sometimes it is permanent. Infertility can be very hard to come to terms with. The sense of loss can be strong for people of all ages.

Discuss this risk with your doctor before you start your treatment. Sometimes it is possible for your doctor to suggest treatment which is less likely to cause infertility. If you have a partner they will probably want to join in during the discussion. That way you both learn all the facts and have the chance to talk over your feelings and choices for the future.

Research is looking into removing ovarian tissue and freezing it before chemotherapy starts. The idea is that after treatment, the ovarian tissue can be put back. If the ovarian tissue then starts working normally, eggs can be produced and so fertility is preserved. About 40 babies have been born worldwide after having this treatment.

It is still too early to tell if this will work well enough to be more widely available. But, so far, the results look promising. At the moment there are only a few centres in the UK offering this service. Talk to your doctor if you want to know more. 

It is also now possible for women to have unfertilised eggs frozen. The fertilisation rate for frozen eggs is low, but it is improving as researchers develop better techniques.

Your feelings

People are different in their reaction to infertility. 

  • Some accept it more easily and feel that beating cancer is more important
  • Others seem to accept the news calmly when treatment starts, finding it hits them when treatment is finished

You may feel you have lost a part of yourself and are less feminine if you can't have children. You may be very sad or angry that the treatment has caused changes to your body and your self confidence may be affected.

It might help to talk to a relative or friend about how you are feeling. 

You and your partner might want to speak to counsellor specialising in fertility issues. 

You can contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040 from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
Last reviewed: 
08 Jul 2015
  • Human oocyte and ovarian tissue cryopreservation and its application

    T Tao and others (2008)

    Journal of Assistive Reproduction and Genetics 2008 Jul;25(7):287-96

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