Fertility and pelvic radiotherapy

Effects on men

The testicles, where sperm are produced, are very sensitive to radiotherapy and are close to the bladder, prostate and rectum. Pelvic radiotherapy is likely to make you unable to father any children (infertile).

You may have had sperm stored before treatment started. This can be used in the future, along with fertility treatments, to try to have a baby with a partner. You should always discuss your concerns about infertility with your cancer doctor before treatment starts.

As you may still be producing sperm for some time after treatment, you will be advised to use effective contraception. Some doctors recommend you do this for six months and others for up to two years after treatment.

This is because sperm produced after treatment may still be fertile but could be damaged. This means it might cause abnormalities in a child conceived soon after radiotherapy. Although, at the moment, there isn’t any evidence that children born to fathers who have had radiotherapy have an increased risk of abnormalities.

Effects on women

Pelvic radiotherapy stops the ovaries producing eggs and affects the lining of the womb. As a result, you won’t be able to get pregnant.

Before having radiotherapy, some women may want to see a fertility specialist to discuss the possibility of storing eggs or embryos (fertilised eggs). This is if they are considering trying to have a child through surrogacy (when another woman carries a baby for you) in the future. Your cancer specialist can refer you to a fertility specialist to discuss this.

Infertility can be very distressing and difficult to live with. Some people find it helpful to talk things over with their partner, family or friends. Others might prefer to talk to a trained counsellor. Your GP or cancer doctor can arrange this for you. Many hospitals also have specialist nurses who can offer support, and fertility clinics usually have a counsellor you can talk to.

Talking to other people in a similar position may help you feel less isolated. Some organisations can provide this, as well as specialist advice and counselling.

Or you can talk to people online. Our Online Community is a good place to talk to other people who may be in a similar situation. You can also talk things over with our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00.

We have more information in our cancer and fertility section (fertility in men and fertility in women).

Back to Pelvic radiotherapy explained

About pelvic radiotherapy

Pelvic radiotherapy can be used to treat cancers of the bladder, rectum, anus, prostate, vulva, vagina, womb or cervix.

The pelvis

Information on the pelvic area of the body.

Side effects during treatment

You may have side effects during and shortly after your treatment. The healthcare team will help you to manage these.