Some radiation therapy treatments can decrease fertility

April 1, 2009

In female cancer patients of reproductive age, radiation treatment directly to the ovaries should be avoided because there is a direct relationship between certain types of radiation therapy and fertility problems, according to a review in the April 1 issue of the International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics, the official journal of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO).

Radiation therapy to the pelvic region can cause ovarian failure or result in damage that makes the uterus unable to accommodate the growth of a fetus. These effects are not a great concern to patients past their reproductive years, but due to the growing number of pediatric and young-adult cancer survivors, these effects are increasingly relevant.

Researchers at the Harvard Program and the Department of Radiation Oncology at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, both in Boston, sought to review the impact of on fertility, pregnancy and neonatal outcomes among female patients and the effectiveness of ovarian transposition, or moving the ovaries out of the field of radiation, as a means of preserving fertility.

The study authors reviewed the outcomes of past studies that reported fertility, pregnancy and neonatal outcomes as a result of cranio-spinal, abdominal and pelvic radiation and determined that cranio-spinal irradiation caused hormonal changes that affected a woman's ability to become pregnant later in life. Women who received abdominal or pelvic radiation had an increased risk of uterine dysfunction that lead to miscarriage, preterm labor, low birth weight and placental abnormalities. The study also determined that women who received low doses of ovarian radiation can suffer early menopause.

Ovarian transposition was proven to be an effective method of reducing the rates of ovarian dysfunction, but even if the ovaries are outside of the field of radiation, scatter dose can cause significant damage.

"Female patients who are not past their reproductive years would be best served by a multidisciplinary team of caregivers, including a radiation oncologist, pediatric oncologist, medical oncologist, a reproductive endocrinologist or gynecologist, and a maternal fetal medicine specialist," Akila Viswanathan, M.D., M.P.H., senior author and a radiation oncologist at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Dana Farber Cancer Institute, said. "Only through a multidisciplinary approach will patients receive optimal care of their cancer and the best options for fertility preservation."

Source: American Society for Radiation Oncology

Related Stories

Recommended for you

More than 2,500 cancer cases a week could be avoided

March 23, 2018
More than 135,500 cases of cancer a year in the UK could be prevented through lifestyle changes, according to new figures from a Cancer Research UK landmark study published today.

Metastatic lymph nodes can be the source of distant metastases in mouse models of cancer

March 22, 2018
A study by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators finds that, in mouse models, cancer cells from metastatic lymph nodes can escape into the circulation by invading nodal blood vessels, leading to the development ...

Could a pap test spot more than just cervical cancer?

March 22, 2018
Pap tests have helped drive down rates of cervical cancer, and a new study suggests they also could be used to detect other gynecologic cancers early.

Researchers examine role of fluid flow in ovarian cancer progression

March 22, 2018
New research from Virginia Tech is moving physicians closer to pinpointing a predictor of ovarian cancer, which could lead to earlier diagnosis of what is know as the "silent killer."

Researchers identify compound to prevent breast cancer cells from activating in brain

March 22, 2018
Researchers at Houston Methodist used computer modeling to find an existing investigational drug compound for leukemia patients to treat triple negative breast cancer once it spreads to the brain.

Probing RNA epigenetics and chromatin structures to predict drug resistance in leukemia

March 22, 2018
Drug resistance is a major obstacle to effective treatment for patients with cancer and leukemia. Epigenetic modifying drugs have been proven effective for some patients with hematologic malignancies, such as myelodysplastic ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.