Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. It often causes side effects to healthy cells in the body and can affect a woman’s fertility. This can damage the ovaries and lower the number of eggs (ovarian reserve).

The effect of chemotherapy upon fertility depends on:

  • The type of drugs you will be given.
  • The dose and for how long you take the drugs.
  • The combination of drugs you will be given.
  • Your age and previous fertility status.

Chemotherapy may damage woman’s ovaries and eggs. This can mean a woman’s menstrual cycle often stops (amenorrhoea) or becomes irregular (oligomenorrhea) during chemotherapy. This may be temporary or permanent.

Changes to the menstrual cycle

Temporary

If the changes to the menstrual cycle are temporary then your periods will come back after cancer treatment. This could happen within a few months or may take up to a year or more. The younger you are when having chemotherapy treatment, and if you are under 35, the more likely it is that your periods will return. The number of years you are fertile might be lower. Even if your periods come back, this does not always mean you will be able to get pregnant.

Permanent

If the changes to the menstrual cycle are permanent this means your periods will not come back after cancer treatment, and the menopause starts. Women over 35 years old are more likely to be infertile after their cancer treatment.