Fertility

Many women who are diagnosed with womb cancer have finished their family. And many will have been through the menopause. For those who are able to, and would like to have children it will be difficult to cope with a diagnosis. The treatments for womb cancer do affect your ability to have children.

How treatment can affect fertility

Womb cancer most commonly affects women who have gone through their menopause. More rarely, it can affect younger women who still want to have children. Most treatment for womb cancer will affect your fertility and mean that you are unable to have children.

The main treatments for womb cancer are surgery and radiotherapy. Some also need cancer drug treatment with chemotherapy or targeted treatments. These can also affect fertility.

Is it possible to have treatment that doesn’t affect my fertility?

Most women need to have surgery straight away.

For a very few it may be possible to postpone surgery until you have had children. Researchers have been looking into this. If you have an early cancer that is slow growing hormone treatment might help to shrink the cancer. For some people it might get rid of it.

Surgery is a very successful treatment. It gets rid of the cancer for almost all women with early stage cancers. Having hormone treatment instead means that there is a risk of the cancer not shrinking and continuing to grow. Research shows that the cancer grows in 26 out of 100 people who have the hormone treatment like this.

Talk to your doctor about whether having hormone treatment is possible for you. It is important to understand the risks of not having surgery and weighing that against having a family.

The British Gynaecological Cancer Society guidelines recommend that women have treatment in a specialist centre. They also suggest extra tests including an MRI scan. This is to check how big the cancer is and to try to work out your risk of the cancer growing.

If you are able to have this treatment you will need to have regular tests to check for cancer. This includes regularly taking a tissue samples from your womb during the first year. The following years you will need them twice a year.

If the cancer grows or comes back, you will need to have surgery. And when you have finished your family your doctor will recommend you have surgery to remove your womb.

Coping

Not being able to become pregnant and give birth can be quite a shock. You might need time to come to terms with your loss of fertility and to deal with the feelings that come with a natural change of life as well as a diagnosis of cancer. This can even be true if you have had your menopause and could no longer become pregnant. It can feel like the end of a particular phase of life.

Many women feel a great sense of loss if they have to have their womb removed. Some find the operation makes them feel less feminine. 

Talk to your GP, nurse or consultant if you feel you need some help. A support group might be helpful. Or you could think about counselling.

Last reviewed: 
30 Jan 2022
Next review due: 
10 Feb 2024
  • British Gynaecological Cancer Society Uterine Guidelines: Recommendations for practice
    Sudha Sundar and others
    Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2017 Jun;213:71-97

  • Cancer and its management (7th edition)
    J Tobias and D Hochhauser
    Blackwell, 2015

  • Cancer. Principles and practice of oncology (10th edition)
    VT De Vita, S Hellman and SA Rosenberg
    Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2015, p 1048-1064

Related links