Some treatments for cancer can cause infertility in both men and women. Also, cancer treatment in children may affect their future fertility. Infertility from cancer treatment may be temporary or permanent.
Whether or not your cancer treatment will affect your fertility depends on many things, such as how many radiation treatments you get or the type of chemotherapy you have.
Before you begin your cancer treatment, talk to your doctor to find out if your fertility could be affected. Your doctor may refer you to a fertility specialist. If preserving fertility is a concern for you, knowing your options can help you know what to decide.
Options to help preserve fertility in men may include:
- Banking sperm (freezing and storing sperm for use in the future) before having any cancer treatment.
- Having the testicles shielded during radiation therapy.
During treatment, use birth control. Radiation to the testicles and some chemotherapy can damage sperm and cause birth defects. If you are having chemotherapy, you need to use a condom during sex because your semen may contain chemotherapy medicines. Also, your partner may need to use birth control.
After treatment, it may take some time to find out if you are fertile. If you have very low sperm counts or if treatment has caused problems with ejaculation, you still may be able to father a child using assisted reproductive technologies.
Options to help preserve fertility in women may include:
- Embryo banking (freezing and storing embryos for use in the future) before having any cancer treatment.
- Having the ovaries shielded during radiation therapy.
- Having surgery to move the ovaries out of the radiation-affected area of the body.
- Banking eggs or ovarian tissue (this is still experimental).
- Protecting the egg supply in other ways, such as by shutting down the pituitary gland.
During treatment, if you have not gone through menopause, you (or your partner) will need to use birth control. Getting pregnant during treatment should be avoided. Cancer treatments can harm a developing baby (fetus).
If your child has cancer, talk to the doctor to find out whether treatment will affect your child's future fertility. This is important even for young children who have cancer. If treatment could affect your child's fertility, ask the doctor to recommend a fertility specialist. This specialist can work with your child's medical team to try to preserve fertility.
Current as of: March 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Jimmy Ruiz MD - Hematology, Oncology