It’s a frustrating fact: Preserving fertility for women who face cancer treatments that damage their reproductive organs is much more complicated than it is for men. But the options are slowly expanding for women who would like to build families after treatment.
For years, a myth about young people with cancer has circulated: If you’re facing a life-threatening illness, who cares about infertility? But for the nearly 6 million adults of reproductive age who have survived adult or childhood cancer, fertility is a significant factor in preserving quality of life after treatment, says Senait Fisseha, M.D., medical director of the University of Michigan Center for Reproductive Medicine.
The key is to seek out fertility counseling before treatment begins to understand the options, even if the options for women aren’t as straightforward as sperm banking, says Marcia Leonard, N.P., who leads the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Fertility Counseling program.
“I firmly believe that a fertility consult is extremely valuable. As a woman becomes knowledgeable about what’s going to happen, she gains some control,” Leonard says. “She can learn about her options and then decide if they’re in her best interests. Having that knowledge and control makes it a whole different ball game than finding out in 10 years that she’s infertile.”
Deciding which path to pursue to build a family is a personal choice. We talked with three women to learn how they became mothers after cancer. Continue reading