Fertility options after cancer treatment

Using donated eggs, sperm or embryos

Some women or couples who have been affected by cancer may choose to use donated eggs or sperm. This isn’t funded by the NHS in all areas and there’s also a shortage of donors, so it may not be an easy option.

Women without a partner who want to freeze embryos rather than eggs before their cancer treatment may choose to use donor sperm. It can take a while to find a suitable donor and this may cause too long a delay to cancer treatment.

Women who are permanently infertile and didn’t have their own eggs or embryos stored before cancer treatment may consider using donor ones.

Choosing to use donated eggs, sperm or embryos is a difficult decision and it isn’t going to suit everyone. Some religions are against any type of fertility treatment; others are against using donors. Talk to your partner, family or religious advisor about any concerns you have. You can also talk to the staff at the fertility clinic about this.


Embryos are sometimes donated by other couples who have had fertility treatment previously. They may have several embryos stored and have to decide what to do with them when their family is complete.

Everyone who donates eggs, sperm or embryos is carefully selected:

  • Usually a donor is matched as closely as possible for eye and hair colour, physical build and ethnic origin.
  • The donor has to be fit and healthy with no previous medical problems.
  • The donor is tested for infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B and C and some genetic conditions.

Some women may consider adoption or surrogacy which is when another woman carries a baby for you. If you have had your womb removed or radiotherapy directly to the womb, adoption or surrogacy are your only options. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has information about surrogacy on its website hfea.gov.uk.

Some women choose not to have fertility treatment, adoption or surrogacy and go on to enjoy life without children. Everyone is different.

Back to Fertility in women

Getting support

Many women find it helpful to talk to family, friends, counsellors or other women in similar situations when coping with infertility.