Cancer patients of a reproductive age (18-40-years-old) face a unique set of circumstances. Life-saving cancer treatments can irreversibly harm ovarian DNA, preventing a woman from birthing a child after 12 months of unprotected sex. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and systemic drugs can damage or destroy a woman’s eggs, which, unlike sperm, do not regenerate. Their loss is permanent and may cause premature menopause, which affects an average of 50% of all fertile women receiving chemotherapy. The older a patient is, the greater her chance for premature and permanent menopause.
In many cases, cancer treatment compromises a woman’s ability to reproduce, but does not cause premature menopause. These women may have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying to term. They may be on medication for years that would be damaging to a growing fetus.