How treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma might affect your fertility
Many couples have had healthy babies after one of them has been treated for Hodgkin lymphoma. Unfortunately, however, some treatments for Hodgkin lymphoma, and sometimes the lymphoma itself, can cause infertility.
Many couples have had healthy babies after one of them has been treated for Hodgkin lymphoma.
Unfortunately, however, some treatments for Hodgkin lymphoma, and sometimes the lymphoma itself, can cause infertility. Your doctor or specialist nurse will talk to you about this before you start your treatment. If you have a partner, you may find it helpful to see your doctor together so that you can both discuss any concerns you have.
Some combinations of chemotherapy drugs don’t cause infertility. With some drugs, however, the risk of either temporary or permanent infertility is high.
Some chemotherapy drugs will have no effect on fertility, but others may reduce the number of sperm produced or affect their ability to reach and fertilise a woman’s egg during sex. Unfortunately, this means you may no longer be able to father children. If you want to have children after your treatment, you may be able to ‘bank’ some of your sperm before you start your chemotherapy, for later use.
If this is possible in your case, you will be asked to produce several sperm samples over 1-2 weeks. These will then be frozen and stored so they can be used later to try to fertilise an egg. Chemotherapy will not affect your ability to get an erection and you will still be able to have an orgasm.
If men have radiotherapy to the abdominal area, a lead shield may be used to protect the testes.
We have a video about Hodgkin lymphoma and fertility in men.
Some chemotherapy drugs may temporarily or permanently stop your ovaries producing eggs. If this happens, you will no longer be able to become pregnant and you may develop symptoms of the menopause.
Depending on your age, you may be referred to a fertility clinic for advice. There, you can talk to a fertility specialist about the ways that may allow you to have a baby in the future (fertility preservation), even if your ovaries aren’t producing eggs.
Fertility preservation involves stimulating your ovaries to produce eggs and then freezing embryos (fertilised eggs) if you have a partner, or unfertilised eggs if you don’t. It can take 3–6 weeks depending where you are in your menstrual cycle. It’s not always possible to delay cancer treatment to have this done. Sometimes, depending on the cancer and its stage, your specialist may advise you to start treatment straight away.
Women having radiotherapy can sometimes have an operation to move their ovaries out of the treatment area before treatment begins.
We have more information about fertility in women.
As your doctor knows the exact type of treatment you’re having, they are the best person to answer your questions about fertility. You may find it helpful to make a list of questions you have, so you can be clear about your treatment and its possible effect on fertility. If you have a partner, you may find it helpful to see the doctor together so that you can both discuss any concerns you have. You may also find our sexuality and cancer section helpful.
Coping with infertility
If chemotherapy has made you infertile, it can be difficult to come to terms with the fact that you can no longer have children. You may feel that you have lost a part of your identity. Talking about your feelings with your partner, family or a close friend can help to clarify your thoughts and give the people close to you the opportunity to understand how you are feeling.
Some people find it easier to talk to someone outside their immediate circle. In this case you may find it helpful to talk to your doctor, nurse, social worker or a counsellor. You can also speak to our cancer support specialists.