Possible effects on males
- Loss of sperm production can be temporary or permanent.
- If sperm production recovers, this can take one to five years.
Analysis of a semen sample can indicate if you are making sperm. This can be done one year or later after treatment is completed. Talk with your doctor about how often to be evaluated.
A note to parents: Some chemotherapies and radiation therapies can affect the endocrine system, the glands and cells that control growth and development. Talk with your son’s doctor if your son seems to be going through puberty early (before age 9) or has not entered puberty by age 15. The doctor will want to evaluate him and may prescribe medicine to alleviate the hormone imbalance.
Possible effects on females
- Females do not produce new eggs. Therefore, the effect of treatment will depend on how many eggs remain after treatment.
- If all the eggs are destroyed, a woman will lose ovarian function immediately after treatment. Premature ovarian failure (POF), also called premature menopause, describes a loss of ovarian function in a woman younger than 40. Unlike menopause, this is not a natural occurrence. When POF is caused by cancer treatment, it is unlikely that a girl or woman will have subsequent menstrual periods or be able to become pregnant naturally again. Generally, POF is managed with hormone replacement therapy, including estrogen and progesterone. Girls and women with POF are encouraged to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly (aerobics and weight training) to decrease the health risks of osteoporosis and heart disease. Calcium and vitamin D supplements for bone health may also be prescribed.
- If some eggs remain after treatment, a woman may still menstruate regularly and remain fertile after treatment, but she may develop POF and lose ovarian function at a young age. If you are at risk for POF, you may want to start a family early. If you are fertile after treatment but not ready to start a family, you may want to consider egg or embryo freezing (see Options for Females).
- Radiation to the pelvic area can cause damage to the uterus, increasing the risk for infertility, miscarriage, or premature birth.
- Females who undergo cancer treatment as children tend to have fewer fertility problems than females treated during the teen or adult years.
- Changes in your body or difficulty conceiving may or may not be related to the effects of your cancer treatment. Talk with your doctor if you have:
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Hot flashes
- Breast tenderness
- Painful intercourse
- Trouble getting pregnant
- A history of miscarriages
- Any other questions or concerns.
A note to parents: Some chemotherapies and radiation therapies can affect the endocrine system, the glands and cells that control growth and development. Talk with your daughter’s doctor if she seems to be going through puberty early (before age 8) or has not entered puberty by age 15. The doctor will want to evaluate her and may prescribe medicine to alleviate the hormone imbalance.
- Download or order The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's free fact sheet, Fertility Facts.