Many cancer treatments can affect a male’s fertility. Most likely, your doctor will talk with you about whether or not cancer treatment may lower fertility or cause infertility. However, not all doctors bring up this topic. Sometimes you, a family member, or parents of a child being treated for cancer may need to initiate this conversation.
Whether or not your fertility is affected depends on factors such as:
Cancer treatments are important for your future health, but they may harm reproductive organs and glands that control fertility. Changes to your fertility may be temporary or permanent. Talk with your health care team to learn what to expect based on your treatment(s):
Surgery for cancers of the reproductive organs and for pelvic cancers (such as bladder, colon, prostate, and rectal cancer) can damage these organs and/or nearby nerves or lymph nodes in the pelvis, leading to infertility.
Emotional considerations and support for fertility issues
For some men, infertility can be one of the most difficult and upsetting long-term effects of cancer treatment. Although it might feel overwhelming to think about your fertility right now, most people benefit from having talked with their doctor (or their child’s doctor, when a child is being treated for cancer) about how treatment may affect their fertility and learning about options to preserve their fertility.
Although most people want to have children at some point in their life, families can come together in many ways. For extra support during this time, reach out to your health care team with questions or concerns, as well as to professionally led support groups.
Males with cancer have options to preserve their fertility. These procedures may be available at the hospital where you are receiving cancer treatment or at a fertility preservation clinic.
Talk with your doctor about the best option(s) for you based on your age, the type of cancer you have, and the specific treatment(s) you will be receiving. The success rate, financial cost, and availability of these procedures varies.
Sperm banking (also called semen cryopreservation) is the most common and easy option for young men of reproductive age who would like to have children one day. Samples of semen are collected and checked under a microscope in the laboratory. The sperm are then frozen and stored (banked) for the future. Sperm can be frozen for an indefinite amount of time.
If you choose to take steps to preserve your fertility, your doctor and a fertility specialist will work together to develop a treatment plan that includes fertility preservation procedures whenever possible.
Finding more information, support, and clinical trials
These organizations also have information about fertility-preservation options for people with cancer:
Oncofertility Consortium Learn more about fertility preservation options, connect with a patient navigator, and find additional online and community resources.
LIVESTRONG Fertility Understand your fertility risks and options, and get access to fertility preservation discounts.