While most people are familiar with the word “cancer,” what cancer is can be far-ranging and widespread in both health impact and specific symptoms. In some ways, the word cancer is a “catch-all term,” referring to any number of different parts of the body, or conditions in which the cells of our body no longer reproduce correctly. And in some cases, cancer—or even the treatment of cancer—can have a very significant impact on the ability of a woman to bear children.
More Than One Cause
While the final result of cancer is fairly uniform—the abnormal reproduction of cells—the causes of cancer are varied, and sometimes not well known or understood. Skin cancer, on one end of the spectrum, is very well documented and understood. People get skin cancer when the skin cells are exposed to too much ultraviolet radiation from sunlight, causing the skin cells to mutate. Now, instead of reproducing properly, a person with skin cancer displays growths and skin discoloration that may eventually spread if left untreated.
On the other hand, some types of cancer are genetic, passed down along family lines. Other forms, however, may occur unexpectedly and without any apparent cause. A person with no family history of cancer may be diagnosed one day with stomach cancer, even though there seems to be no direct trigger.
For both men and women, cancer can also occur in the reproductive systems. Men can get testicular cancer that affects their fertility. Women may develop something similar, with ovarian cancer. In these cases, cancer affecting the reproductive system has obvious repercussions, but a woman’s ability to carry a child may be also be put at risk by the attempts to fight cancer.
Treatments Have Risks
Cancer treatment can be very aggressive. Depending on the type of cancer that a woman is diagnosed with, it may be recommended to treat cancer through radiotherapy, which involves subjecting the patient to radiation, in the hopes of “burning out” cancer. In other treatments, like chemotherapy, require the patient to be subjected to a variety of drugs that try to focus efforts on killing the cancerous cells.
In both cases, however, the intensity of the treatment can affect other organs and parts of the body beyond just cancer that is being targeted. Radiation therapy, as one example, doesn’t discriminate between healthy and cancerous cells in a targeted area. And chemotherapy may have “system-wide” effects since the drugs are not necessarily administered in the target area but may be taken orally, through a needle applied directly to the skin.
This can sometimes mean that a woman’s reproductive systems may be dramatically, even permanently altered and damaged. It could result in unhealthy eggs being produced after treatment, in which case, it is not recommended to have children since those embryos would be at high risk of unhealthy development. Or it could mean that the reproductive organs, such as the womb may no longer be safe for sustaining the development of an embryo.
There Are Alternatives
Even if cancer or the subsequent cancer treatment affects a woman’s ability to bear a child safely, that doesn’t mean all is lost. Surrogacy through an experienced, professional surrogate motherhood clinic, may be the answer. In some cases, if a woman is diagnosed early enough, it may be possible to have eggs—or ova—preserved before treatment takes place. This means that hopeful parents can still have a child using their own genetic material, fertilized in vitro. However, it will require the cooperation of a surrogate mother to bring the child to term, since it may not be medically advisable for the natural mother to do so.
In other cases, if the preservation of the ova wasn’t possible due to the speed with which treatment was required, there are still alternatives. Some surrogate motherhood clinics allow for hopeful parents to choose eggs provided by donors, based on a variety of different requirements, such as ethnicity, hair and eye color, health status and many other different parameters.
Explore Your Options
Being diagnosed with cancer is always serious, and even more serious is the battle to overcome it. Sometimes, even when the battle is won, there are permanent consequences, and the ability to safely bear a child may be one of those outcomes. If this is the situation you find yourself in, think about all your alternatives, including surrogate motherhood.
Talk to the experts at an established, reputable surrogate motherhood clinic. A broad range of services are in place to help hopeful parents with everything from finding, interviewing and selecting a surrogate mother, navigating the legal requirements, getting proper medical support before, during and at delivery, and consolidating and assisting with the finances required for an investment of this magnitude. Make sure you understand all the options available to you so that you can make an informed choice.