A cancer diagnosis can be so overwhelming and thinking about whether to have children in the future may be the last thing on your mind. Most people just want to focus on getting through their treatment.
Some types of cancer, and some types of cancer treatment can affect sperm and eggs, which may prevent or reduce the chances of having a baby.
Therefore, your fertility is an important part of the conversation with your cancer doctor before treatment starts.
Cancer specialists (oncologists) can refer you to a fertility specialist who will explain the available options for protecting your fertility both before and after cancer treatment.
In some cases, fertility will not be affected by cancer treatment, so it’s important to use contraception if you don’t want to become pregnant.
Your fertility is an important part of the conversation you have with your cancer doctor, before any treatment starts.
The facts about cancer, treatment and fertility
Depending on the type, cancer and cancer treatment (chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy, etc) can affect:
- the ovaries
- sperm production
- some women’s and people with a uterus' ability to carry a pregnancy
- some people’s ability to have sexual intercourse.
What you can do
The Cancer and fertility section of the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority website describes options for protecting fertility for people diagnosed with cancer.
For women and people with ovaries, they can include:
● Freezing eggs
● Freezing embryos
● Freezing ovarian tissue
● Protecting ovaries by using hormone medication
Men and people with testicles may be able to:
● Freeze their sperm
● Freeze tiny bits of testicular tissue for later use
Healthy Male’s Storing Your Sperm fact sheet offers more information for men.
Your cancer specialist or fertility specialist can discuss the options with you and help you decide which method is best for you.
Healthy Male’s booklet Your sperm – and how to look after them has useful sections on Cancer treatment and Storing sperm for later.
Healthy Male's Storing Your Sperm fact sheet for men diagnosed with cancer.
Future Fertility has information for parents of children with cancer, adolescent and young adult patients, and for adults with cancer, and features stories from cancer patients about fertility choices.
The Cancer Council NSW website features Fertility and Cancer, with information on Common concerns, Talking about fertility, Emotional impact and options for men, women, young adults and children
Breast Cancer Network Australia’s Fertility-related choices booklet explains options for women diagnosed with breast cancer.