Posts Tagged ‘early menopause’

Early Chemotherapy Can Compromise Female Fertility

A number of chemotherapy or anticancer medications may compromise a woman’s fertility.

Now it appears that the earlier the cancer diagnosis, the higher the risks for later infertility.

Some chemotherapy medicines, like those in the alkylating agents group, can cause infertility.

These types of chemotherapy medicines can be used to treat many different kinds of cancer, not just cancers that affect the reproductive organs.

Chemotherapy mostly causes infertility by reducing the number of eggs in your ovaries or by causing early menopause.

Many women who receive chemotherapy and radiation for Hodgkin’s disease go into premature menopause because of damage to their eggs or follicles.

Those exposed to both therapies suffer more damage than those who receive only one therapy.

Focusing on longer-term, age-specific outcomes associated with chemotherapy, researchers at the University of California at San Francisco have found that the younger a woman is when diagnosed with cancer, the more likely she will experience early menopause.

Key findings from a survey of more than 1,000 women in a California cancer database, now available online in the journal Cancer, include:

* From 5-10% of women reported acute ovarian failure, which increased significantly with age at diagnosis.

* The incidence of infertility increased significantly with age at diagnosis.

For example, for women with Hodgkin’s disease, 18% were infertile at age 20 compared to 57% at age 35.

* Using age as a predictor of early menopause in non-Hodgkin lymphoma, more than half of women age 20 at diagnosis experienced menopause early compared to one in 6 who were age 35 at diagnosis.

“We noted proportions of infertility among cancer survivors that appear considerably higher than those in the general United States population,” said lead author Joseph Letourneau, MD.

Not all women who are having cancer treatment have the opportunity to talk with a fertility specialist before beginning treatment.

Yet there are several options to preserve a woman’s fertility, including freezing embryos, eggs, or tissue from her ovaries before she goes for cancer treatment.

If you have received a cancer diagnosis, particularly if you had cancer in your 20s, ask your oncologist how you can preserve your fertility.