Fertility and pelvic radiotherapy

Effects on men

The testicles, where sperm are made, are very sensitive to radiotherapy. Pelvic radiotherapy may make you unable to father children (infertile). Your doctor or specialist nurse can talk to you about the effect radiotherapy is likely to have on you. Infertility can be very distressing and hard to come to terms with, especially if you had planned to have children or add to your family.

It may be possible to store sperm before your treatment starts (sperm banking). The sperm can then be used in the future. It’s important to talk to your doctor or nurse before your treatment starts. They can advise you about sperm storage.

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. Infertility can be very distressing and hard to come to terms with, especially if you had planned to have children or add to your family.

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.

Contraception

Although your fertility may be affected it’s still important to use effective contraception during and for some time after treatment. This is because there may be abnormalities in a child conceived during or soon after radiotherapy. Your doctor can give you more advice.

Getting support

Getting the right support can help you to cope. If you have a partner, it may be a good idea to include them in this too. Your doctor or nurse can usually arrange for you to talk to a professional fertility counsellor or therapist. Our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00 can also give you further help and advice. 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.

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.

Side effects during treatment

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

Follow up

If side effects don’t go away, or you develop any new symptoms after treatment is over tell your cancer doctor.