Common questions about cancer and fertility
Your medical team will be able to answer questions about your situation, but here are some common questions about fertility.
Will my fertility be affected?Back to top
Most teenagers and young adults who have cancer won’t have long-term fertility problems.
Usually, it’s difficult to know until some time after the treatment whether any damage has been done, and whether this is temporary or permanent.
For people who have temporary fertility problems, how quickly fertility comes back will vary from person to person. Your cancer specialist can talk to you about what to expect.
If your fertility is permanently damaged, you won’t be able to have children naturally. This can be very distressing. It may help to get some emotional support from a support organisation.
Can I stop the effect of treatment on my fertility?Back to top
If you are having radiotherapy, it is sometimes possible to protect pelvic organs from its harmful effects. This depends on where the cancer is.
Otherwise, unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to stop the treatments affecting your fertility.
Your cancer specialist should talk to you about preserving your fertility before starting treatment.
Current studies are looking at using hormone therapy to protect fertility in women having chemotherapy. But we don’t know how effective this is yet.
If I have an early menopause, are there any treatments I can have?Back to top
Most young women who have an early menopause from cancer treatment should be offered hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Taking replacement hormones has a protective effect on your body. It does this by keeping your hormone levels similar to what they’d be if you hadn’t had cancer treatment. HRT helps to reduce your risk of developing brittle bones (osteoporosis) and heart disease.
Occasionally, women are advised not to take HRT because of the type of cancer they have. Your cancer specialist will advise you about this.
If I'm infertile or have an early menopause, will my body age more quickly?Back to top
No. Taking replacement hormones will allow your body to age in the same way that it would have done otherwise.
Can I have sex while having chemotherapy?Back to top
Yes. But it is a good idea to use a barrier form of contraception throughout your treatment and for some time afterwards. This is because there’s a small chance that drugs can be passed on to your partner through body fluids. Cancer treatment can also damage sperm or eggs, which could damage a baby that is conceived at this time.
Do I need to use contraception if I might be infertile?Back to top
It may be confusing if your doctor tells you to use contraception when they’ve also told you that you may be infertile. The problem is that no one can know whether the treatment has definitely caused infertility. It’s best to use contraception to avoid any chance of you or your partner becoming pregnant accidentally.
What happens if the treatment has affected my fertility?Back to top
If you find out that the cancer or its treatment has affected your fertility, you may start thinking about fertility testing and treatment. You may have to decide:
- whether to get your fertility checked
- whether to go for fertility treatment
- what sort of fertility treatments to have
- whether or not to stop fertility treatment.
Talking to professionals who are trained to help you with these decisions could be useful. You can talk to staff at the hospital where you had your treatment, or you could contact a support organisation.