Cancer is one of the main causes of death worldwide, and only in Mexico, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are approximately 745,640 cases, where 45% correspond to men and 55% to women.
Of the different types of cancer, two stand out in our country that are critical for the fertility of both women and men: breast and prostate cancer. The danger is not only hidden under the shadow of the disease itself, but also in the treatments to fight it, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
To know what the impact of cancer is, we must first know what it is and how it behaves. The WHO defines it as a process of growth, and uncontrolled dissemination of cells that can take place in any corner of our body and spread.
Hence, cancer therapies focus mostly on the destruction of malignant cells to prevent their unchecked growth. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the two most common treatments for cancer, but how do they differ?
Chemotherapy is a general term that has been given to dozens of drugs with different or similar nature, structure, and mechanism of action, which have as their ultimate goal the destruction of cells that divide with high frequency. On the other hand, radiotherapy, in essence a high-energy ray that passes through our body until it reaches the nucleus of our cells where the DNA is found, producing irreversible damage that ends up killing them.
Now, what is the relationship of all this with fertility?
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy have a direct gonadotoxic effect on both men and women. These treatments can destroy the ovarian follicles that make up the female ovarian reserve, and compromise sperm count, motility, morphology, and DNA integrity in male patients.
However, the rate of treatment-related infertility varies from person to person, and depends on multiple factors where we can highlight: the type of cancer, age, previous infertility problems, and above all, the type of treatment, whether it is its method of administration, dosage, and location.
For this reason, it is imperative that physicians talk to their patients about the possible impact of treatment on fertility and make informed and timely decisions. Contact our experts with any questions you may have. Remember that here at Citmer we want to be part of your story.
Lambertini, M., Del Mastro, L., Pescio, M., Andersen, C., Azim, H., Peccatori, F., Costa, M., Revelli, A., Salvagno, F., Gennari, A., Ubaldi, F., La Sala, G., De Stefano, C., Wallace, W., Partrdge, A. & Anseini, P. (2016). Cancer and fertility preservation: international recommendations from an expert meeting. BMC Medicine, 14:1. doi: 10.1186/s12916-015-0545-7. Matthews, M., Hurst, B., Marshburn, P., Usadi, R., Papadakis, M., & Sarantou, T. (2011). Cancer, Fertility Preservation, and Future Pregnancy: A Comprehensive Review. Obstetrics and Gynecology International. 2012: 11. doi: 10.1155/2012/953937.