Fertility | Chris O'Brien Lifehouse

Fertility

Being told that you have cancer and that treatment may make you infertile is very difficult to come to terms with. The prospect of losing your fertility can be overwhelming no matter whether or not you already have children, or have considered having them.

Your doctor will talk to you about the risk of infertility before your treatment starts as all treatments can affect your fertility. It may also be helpful to discuss whether there is anything that can be done to lessen the effects of treatment on your fertility. Many men find that their feelings about becoming a father change over the years.

Before your treatment starts, it is important to know if your fertility is likely to be affected. You can then decide whether you want to look at options that may be available to you, such as storing embryos (fertilised eggs) or storing sperm for future use (sperm banking).

If you have a partner, it might be helpful for you both to be present during these discussions.

Don’t be afraid to raise this with your doctor or specialist nurse and ask to be referred to a fertility specialist.

How treatment can affect fertility

Women

Treatment for cancer can affect your fertility in different ways. Cancer treatments can:

  • cause an early menopause by damaging the ovaries (reducing the number of eggs)
  • stop you from producing hormone
  • involve losing your womb
  • damage the womb lining (making it difficult to get pregnant or keep a pregnancy).

Men

Treatments for cancer can affect your fertility in different ways. Some cancer treatment can:

  • stop the production of sperm (temporarily or permanently)
  • affect the production of the hormone testosterone, which can influence your sex drive and your ability to get an erection
  • damage the nerves and blood vessels in the pelvic area, which can affect your ability to get an erection and/or ejaculate normally.

Treatments which only affect sperm production will not prevent you from getting an erection or enjoying sex.

Although treatment may affect your fertility it is very important that you or your partner do not become pregnant whilst receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy and for some time after as these treatments are very harmful to a developing baby. Effective contraception such as condoms should be used.

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