Hormone therapy uses drugs to change how hormones work in the body. It is given to help lower the chance of the cancer coming back. It can also be used to treat a cancer that has returned after treatment or has spread.
Hormone therapy is given to women with cancers that are hormone sensitive or hormone dependent and this treatment can slow down or stop the growth of the cancer. This is by either a) lowering the levels of hormones in your body, or b) lowering the ability of cancer cells to respond to the hormones and stopping their growth. Hormone therapy is mostly used in breast cancer for a long period of time, between 5 and 10 years.
Some of these are the same hormones required for fertility, so treatment can affect your ability to get pregnant and have a baby.
The above hormones can make your periods irregular or stop. They may start again a few months after you have finished taking it, as long as you haven’t gone through the menopause naturally whilst taking the drug. Due to the length of time the hormones are taken for, it may be difficult to tell if you’ve started the menopause while taking them. It may only be when you finish taking the hormone treatments that you realise your menopause has started.
Hormone therapy itself is not damaging to the ovary, so your periods should return a few months after you have stopped it. If your periods do not return after hormone therapy, this may be because of the effects of other treatment such as chemotherapy that you might have had.
If part of your treatment involves hormone therapy, you will be advised not to get pregnant during treatment and for a while after. Some women may choose to take a break from their hormone therapy to have a baby. Talk to your cancer care team about this.
Cancer treatments can affect fertility by:
- Damaging or lowering the number of eggs stored in the ovaries.
- Damaging a part of the body that controls the fertility hormones.
- Removing or damaging a part of the female reproductive system.
The ways in which cancer treatments affect fertility depends upon the type of cancer and the treatment you may have.
Not all women that have cancer treatment will have a fertility problem in the future.