What symptoms and side effects can I expect from my cancer treatment?
Part of coping with this difficult time is understanding how your cancer and cancer treatments are affecting you, both physically and psychologically. It is important that you are aware of how your cancer treatment may affect your body.
For young women going through chemotherapy or radiation, the concern is not only the impact of cancer therapy on fertility, but also the impact on her overall health.
First, you should recognize that the ovary really has two purposes: (1) to produce eggs for reproduction, and (2) to provide a number of hormones that are necessary for a healthy body. When a woman undergoes cancer therapy that impacts the ovary, both the eggs and the production of hormones may be affected. Changes in the levels of these hormones can lead to menopause-like symptoms, such as weight gain, insomnia, and hot flashes. These symptoms come about not because of the chemotherapy, but because the ovaries have lost the ability to produce essential hormones.
Because cancer therapy may suppress your normal reproductive function, you may stop menstruating during treatment. For some women, this occurs only during treatment, and the menstrual cycle resumes once treatment is completed. Other women, however, experience a permanent loss of the menstrual cycle. Being able to think through and cope with the consequences of the loss of normal reproductive function is important and should be explored with your partner and family.
Cancer therapy may not only harm sperm production, but may cause changes in testosterone, which can lead to a lower libido and difficulty having or keeping an erection. Psychologically, the stress and anxiety of having a diagnosis of cancer could significantly affect the way you feel about yourself and your relationship to your partner. It is important that you anticipate these effects of cancer treatment so that you can logically and sensitively address them if and when they arise. It's important that you be patient with yourself and ask your partner to be patient with you as well. Understand that most men do recover normal libido and normal erections after cancer treatment. Also, most men preserve their ability, naturally or otherwise, to reproduce after cancer treatment.