Question asked by: 
Sarah, 27
Date asked: 
Sep 2014

I have a two-year-old daughter and my husband and I have always wanted two children. I’ve just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and need to have a full hysterectomy. We’re devastated that we won’t be able to have more children and are struggling to come to terms with it. How we can deal with this? Are there any medical options? Would my cancer diagnosis stop us adopting or affect our chances?

How can I come to terms with not being able to have a second child?
Loss of fertility is often the most distressing aspect of ovarian cancer for young women.
Response by Dr Alison Farmer, Oncology Nurse

I am so sorry that you have had a diagnosis of ovarian cancer and that you and your husband were hoping for more children. The loss of fertility is often the most distressing aspect of ovarian cancer for young women.

When we are young most of us have an idea of how our lives are going to pan out. This is sometimes called a script, or a future memory. When something happens to us that means we can no longer follow that script, it can be incredibly painful and difficult to write a new one.

It is common to grieve for what might have been. Coming to terms with this sort of loss takes time and you, and your husband, might find counselling helpful.

There are potential medical options for some women but, they are so dependent on the type and stage of the cancer, it is impossible to advise you personally.

Occasionally, a women with early stage ovarian cancer can be offered the option of keeping her uterus in the hope of having a child in the future using donor eggs, others might be able to stimulate their ovaries to produce a number of eggs prior to surgery and have them frozen for future use, either by themselves or a surrogate.

Some women choose to complete their family through full surrogacy using either the surrogate’s eggs or a donor.

Some oncology units refer patients to a fertility specialist so they can discuss potential options prior to surgery but sadly, for most women, these options are not possible due to the stage of their cancer.

You can get in touch with your local adoption service to find out more about adopting. It is likely you’ll be advised to wait for at least two years following chemotherapy before thinking about extending your family.

For the time being try to concentrate on yourself. Talk to your oncologist and CNS about your feelings.

Ask for a referral to a fertility expert.
Response by Dr Sara Stoneham

I would ask for a referral to a fertility expert to discuss all your options, so you have a chance to explore and understand any choices available to you. For example, you’ll be able to find out whether egg harvesting or cortical strip storage is a possibility.

In addition, I would strongly recommend seeking psychological support during this very difficult time. You will be going through a mourning process for the potential loss of a very significant life wish, alongside having to deal with the loss of your health. These are huge issues and getting some support to help you cope with feelings of anger and distress might be helpful.

Your CNS can help coordinate referrals.
Response by Annette Martyn

Future fertility is a major and very important factor for you and your husband.

All your options can and should be discussed with a fertility specialist as soon as possible before you proceed with any treatment.

Discuss this with the consultant in charge of your treatment plan so you can be referred. Your CNS should be instrumental in coordinating this for you.