Ovarian Cancer

Fertility

In pre-menopausal women, removal of the uterus and ovaries as treatment for ovarian cancer abruptly ends their ability to have children. Some young women we talked to who desperately wanted children and had been trying to conceive before their cancer was diagnosed had been devastated at the loss of their reproductive potential. A woman with one daughter who had had several miscarriages was also upset at being unable to have more children.

Some women who could have no (more) children considered fostering, adoption or surrogacy. One who had been having fertility treatment before her diagnosis applied to adopt children but was refused because she had had cancer. She told her story to the press and the Health Trust later changed its policy to allow people living with cancer to adopt children after surviving five years. Another woman who had been trying to conceive, although she was very upset, decided initially that she had to focus on her health. Later she and her husband, who very much wanted to father a child, found a woman willing to be a surrogate mother.

A woman who had thought her family was complete when her ovaries were removed later divorced and regretted not having investigated the possibility of freezing eggs or embryos for the future (see 'Treatment decisions'). Another said she and her husband had not discussed whether they should have more children but was grateful for the two that she had. Some younger women we talked to had not intended having more children so were not much concerned about losing their reproductive organs.

One woman in her 30's felt more 'confused' than 'devastated' that she would not be able to have more children. Another felt that the question 'Am I going to live?' mattered more to her than whether she would have children. Some women were childless from choice or were infertile and as they were approaching menopausal age had accepted that they would never become pregnant.

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Pre-menopausal women whose treatment involves removal of only one ovary can still conceive - one woman we talked to had had two children since finishing her treatment. Most women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer have already been through the menopause and can no longer become pregnant - several we talked to had grown-up children or even grandchildren. Women with children often expressed sympathy for younger or single women who are diagnosed before they have children.

Last reviewed June 2016.

Last updated January 2010.

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