Cancer and Fertility Part 1: Understanding Your Fertility Options Before Treatment Begins

Coming off of birth control with acne-prone skin

While it can feel shocking to receive a cancer diagnosis as a young adult, you are not alone. Every year in Canada around 10,000 people between 20-44 years of age are diagnosed with cancer, and the good news is that 80% of those diagnosed survive. As a result of evolving detection and treatment options, many young Canadians are able to successfully complete their cancer treatments and live full lives.

We are seeing more patients and couples not only asking about how they can have a baby following treatment, but how they can act preventatively to protect their fertility options before their cancer care begins. Whether you have already begun treatment or are preparing to start, it’s important to know that there are options available to you. So it’s worthwhile discussing this with your Oncologist and Naturopathic Doctor as you are making decisions.

In part one of this discussion we are looking at what you should know and ask before cancer treatments begin. In some cases your Oncologist will be able to tell you if your fertility will be compromised by therapy, but not all cases are as clear. No statistic or generalization will give you the information you deserve as you make these decisions. Your diagnosis, age, and therapy choices will all play a role in helping you to understand what your options are.

Questions to Ask Prior to Treatment:

  1. How will my cancer treatments affect my chances of fertility?

    Unmet fertility needs are associated with higher levels of distress in cancer survivors and we have seen just how much this can impact a patient’s quality of life, causing grief, depression, as well as increased anxiety. Having a realistic expectation before you start treatment can help you make more informed choices that you feel are right for you, helping you move forward through your cancer care and recovery in a more positive and hopeful way.

  2. Can you refer me to an oncofertility specialist?

    Oncofertility is a new area of fertility support that focuses on caring for people who want to have children prior to, and following cancer treatment. While specialists are not always available in every city, the GTA has a number of fertility clinics that are experienced in supporting fertility for patients facing cancer, and these clinics have the ability to get you in to see a fertility specialist quickly when the referral comes directly from your Oncologist.

  3. What can my Naturopathic Doctor do to help protect my fertility options?

    Cancer treatments including chemotherapy, radiation, and bone marrow transplant procedures can potentially result in accelerated ovarian aging and a decrease or loss of eggs in female patients. In male patients these same treatments can result in low sperm count, damaged sperm quality, or a loss of sperm production.

    Naturopathic medicine functions most effectively when it is used alongside your conventional medical treatments and fertility support is no exception. A Naturopathic Doctor who is well-versed in both fertility and cancer care can discuss options that are specific to your situation and safe.

Got any more info?

You can find a list of programs and information resources for Canadians who want to understand their options, as well as how to access care and financial support HERE. For more information on The Orenda Clinic’s oncofertility support HERE

dr hayhlee clarence

Ready to make a change?

As more and more young adults survive their cancer diagnosis, the medical community has been paying attention and developing ways to help people manage their fertility options before and after treatment. So don’t be afraid to reach out and ask. We can help.

In support of your health,

Dr. Hayhlee Clarence, ND