Growing Generations

Fertility & Cancer: Why Your Eggs are Needed

Women may need the help of an egg donor for a number of reasons. While most donors understand that poor egg quality or advancing age of the intended mother are common contributors, many others may not realize that a cancer survivor may need the help of an egg donor.

The most obvious way that cancer can impact fertility is when the cancer itself impacts the reproductive organs. In these instances, doctors may opt to remove the affected organs, and that will leave a woman unable to conceive or carry a child.

Even in cases where the cancer has nothing to do with the reproductive organs, an egg donor’s help may still be necessary. Certain forms of cancer treatment can allow a woman to become cancer free, but the same treatment may also leave her infertile.

Treatment options that can lead to fertility problems include chemotherapy or radiation targeted at the abdomen or pelvic. The issue arises when the ovaries absorb too much of the radiation. Doctors believe this radiation can destroy eggs within the ovaries. The extremity of radiation’s impact on a woman will depend on a variety of factors including her age, egg reserve, and each individual’s response to radiation.

The fact that the same treatment can have no impact on one patient at all, while leaving a different patient completely infertile, is frustrating.  Some forms of treatment may lead to temporary infertility, while in other cases, the side effect may be irreversible. Certain forms of chemotherapy can also impact fertility, with higher doses leading to infertility more often.

The side effect of permanent infertility can be especially oppressive to survivors who are wishing to build their families. The result is that, often, these women will turn to assisted reproductive technologies to build their families in spite of the cancer. And when they do, chances are that they’re going to need your help to complete their family.