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Does Ovarian Cancer Affect Your Chances at Pregnancy?

Understanding the relationship between ovarian cancer and fertility is a concern for many women of childbearing age. It's a complex issue that intertwines the medical challenges of a serious illness with the deeply personal dreams of motherhood.


The Biological Impact of Ovarian Cancer on Fertility

Ovarian cancer originates in the ovaries, which are the reproductive glands that store eggs and produce female hormones. The presence of cancerous cells can directly affect the ovaries' functions. Depending on the stage and type of the cancer, this may interfere with ovulation, the release of eggs necessary for conception.

Early-Stage Ovarian Cancer and Fertility

In the early stages of ovarian cancer, where the cancer is confined to one ovary, fertility preservation may be possible. In some cases, surgeons can remove the affected ovary while leaving the other intact, along with the uterus, making natural pregnancy still achievable.

Advanced-Stage Ovarian Cancer and Fertility

Advanced-stage ovarian cancer poses a more significant challenge. Often, treatment necessitates the removal of both ovaries, along with other reproductive organs, which results in infertility. The cancer itself can also spread to nearby organs, diminishing fertility even before treatment begins.

The Effect of Ovarian Cancer Treatments on Pregnancy

Treating ovarian cancer often requires aggressive strategies that can compromise fertility. Here is an overview of common treatments and their potential impact on pregnancy:


For many ovarian cancer patients, surgery is a primary treatment. Depending on the cancer's extent, one or both ovaries, as well as the uterus, may need to be removed, which leads to infertility. However, fertility-preserving surgery might be an option for some early-stage patients.


Chemotherapy drugs target rapidly dividing cells, including cancer cells. Unfortunately, they can also affect other fast-dividing cells, such as those in the ovaries, leading to reduced egg quality and quantity. Some chemotherapy medications have a higher risk of causing infertility than others.

Radiation Therapy

While less commonly used for ovarian cancer, radiation therapy can damage the reproductive organs and lead to fertility issues, especially if the radiation is directed to the pelvis.

Fertility Preservation Options

Thankfully, there are fertility preservation options available for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer who wish to have children in the future:

Egg or Embryo Freezing

Before starting treatment, some women may opt to have their eggs or embryos frozen for use in future in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures.

Ovarian Tissue Freezing

A newer technique involves freezing ovarian tissue before treatment and re-implanting it afterward, though this is still considered experimental.

The Journey After Treatment

Surviving ovarian cancer is a remarkable feat, and for many, the question of pregnancy arises post-recovery. Natural conception might be challenging or impossible for some survivors, but that doesn't close the door on parenthood. Adoption, surrogacy, and the use of donor eggs or embryos offer alternative paths to starting or growing a family.

Considerations and Support

The intersection of ovarian cancer and fertility is drenched in emotional, financial, and ethical considerations. It's vital to have open conversations with healthcare providers about fertility goals before, during, and after cancer treatment. Support groups, fertility counselors, and advocacy organizations can also provide resources and support to navigate these challenging waters.


For women with ovarian cancer, the question of pregnancy is fraught with physical, psychological, and emotional complexities. While cancer and its treatments can diminish the chances of natural conception, hope remains in the form of modern medical interventions and alternative pathways to parenthood. It’s a deeply personal journey, and each woman’s road to motherhood, with or without ovarian cancer, deserves respect and support.