Contraception and Cancer

When you begin cancer treatment, you may be advised to practice safe sex and use protection when you are intimate with your partner. During your chemotherapy and radiation treatments, your cells undergo a certain amount of damage. Because our sex-cells, or semen and ova, can also be damaged by these harsh medications and radioactive waves, this could pose a problem and lead to possible birth defects or abnormalities in any fetus that may be made during this time. Many doctors will tell you to avoid becoming pregnant or having unsafe sex for up to one year after your treatment ends, depending on the type of treatment you had.

This rule is true for both men and women as we all have sex cells that are shared in the creation of life and during sexual intimacy and relations. Being safe during intimate acts and sexual intercourse is not there to hinder your love life, but instead, keep you safe and allow your body to heal before creating life.

Many women are unaware of the types of birth control available on the market today. There are many choices, types, styles; some that are taken daily, some monthly, and some done just a few times a year. There are five main categories of birth control.

Here are some of the more common types of birth control available:

  • Hormonal birth control methods include combined hormone pills, the patch, or via the Nuvaring. The ring is worn in place for one month at a time. The patch is worn for a week at a time and then skipping the week of your period. Pills are taken daily at the same time to ensure the levels of hormones stay the same.
  • Progestin only hormonal birth control methods are like the shot of Depo-Provera or the progestin-only pill pack. The shot happens regularly and can cause more frequent or completely missing periods. The pill packs are taken on a regular basis, at the same time every day,

There have been numerous studies done and links connected between hormonal contraception and different types of cancer. Any contraception with estrogen or progesterone is linked to an increase in the risk of cancer for breast, endometrial, and any other estrogen or progesterone positive receptor cancer. Many times, doctors feel that the benefits of the drugs outweigh the risks. If you are unsure about your risk with taking hormone-based oral contraception, speak with your doctor to find out what other options you might have.

  • Barrier methods like external and internal condoms, spermicides, and diaphragms, and cervical caps work well for methods that do not require taking medications or ingesting anything internally. External condoms are worn by males and rolled over the tip of the penis and down the shaft. Internal condoms are female condoms and fit over the vagina and vulva, and into the vaginal canal. Spermicide gels, foams, wipes, and washes can be used as an extra barrier to nullify any sperm that got into the area. Certain spermicides are strong and harsh, so be sure to check which are made for sensitive skin.
  • Diaphragms are an older method of contraception, but one that solidly works. The diaphragm is like a small rubber cup with flexible sides. The woman bends the cup with her fingers and gently slides the instrument into the vagina and into place at the head of the cervix. You may need to use a bit of water-based lubrication when inserting. Once it is in, it will stay in until you remove it in the same fashion it was inserted. This device requires cleaning regularly and following your doctor and the manufacturer’s directions for proper care. The diaphragm blocks the cervix and entrance for possible fertilization. Using a spermicide gel with the diaphragm is recommended as the gel will help to nullify any sperm around the edges of the diaphragm.
  • Intrauterine Device or IUD are available in two main types: hormonal and copper wire. These ‘T’ shaped devices are put into your uterus by your doctor or specialist and stays in place for up to ten years. Most people report a cramping feeling upon insertion that resides after the device is in place. Other people report heavier bleeding and more frequent, intense menstrual cramping with this device. While it is around 99% effective with preventing pregnancy, this device does not protect against any sexually transmitted infections.
  • Natural methods like abstinence, fertility awareness method, withdrawal method, or lactational amenorrhea method can work for those who are truly dedicated to the time and focus it takes to follow through. Abstinence is a moral rule of abstaining from any and all sexual activities. This method requires serious dedication as one misstep can result in an unwanted and unprepared for pregnancy.

The fertility awareness method requires the woman to monitor her menstrual cycle for three months, making sure to mark every date correctly. Based on the beginning, middle and end of your cycle, you can then determine when you are ovulating and purposefully avoid having intercourse, or unprotected intercourse, around those times each month. Lactational amenorrhea is something done by breastfeeding women who believe that, due to their breastfeeding, that pregnancy cannot occur because no eggs are being released to fertilize. This is not a tried-and-true method, as many women have been studied and reported to have gotten pregnant following this method.

The withdrawal method is also not a completely reliable form of birth control. This method happens when the penis is withdrawn from the vagina before ejaculation can occur inside of the body. This is not a reliable method because from the first moment of arousal, the mans penis leaks fluids, and all of them contain a certain number of sperm cells. While these fluids may not have as high a sperm count as semen, there is always a chance that fertilization can occur with no ejaculation.

  • Emergency contraception is used in situations where unprotected sex has happened, ejaculate has entered the vaginal canal, other forms of contraception have failed, or in the horrible instance of sexual assault. This type of contraception can help prevent pregnancy. In some circumstances, inserting a copper IUD immediately is the most assured way of avoiding an unwanted pregnancy. Giving the patient a mix of hormone pills at a higher dosage over a set time frame and duration provides the same sort of protection, but with more of a chance of error and fertilization.

Not all of these types of birth control are acceptable for all types of cancers or illnesses. Some of them are hormone-based, which can trigger more cancer growth. Others have allergens in them that you might react to. Your doctor can advise you on which options apply to you and which you could choose from. Whichever method you decide on, you must stick with it in order for it to work correctly with your body.

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