Talking about your fertility before cancer treatment starts

From puberty the testicles begin to make and store millions of sperm. This is mainly controlled by the hormone testosterone. You also need testosterone for your sex drive and to be able to get an erection.

Normally you need to have sex for a woman’s egg to be fertilised by your sperm. This involves getting an erection (erect penis) and ejaculating into a woman’s vagina. The fluid ejaculated (released) is semen, which contains sperm that can fertilise a woman’s egg.

Some couples need to have fertility treatment to have a baby. This is also called assisted conception. Different treatments can be used to help people who have difficulty getting pregnant naturally.

Being told you have cancer and that treatment may make you infertile can be very difficult. For some men, the possibility of losing their fertility may be as difficult to accept as the cancer diagnosis.

It’s important to talk to your cancer doctor or specialist nurse about fertility before starting treatment. Think about the questions you want to ask so you can get all the information you need. If you have a partner it’s usually a good idea to include them too.

If treatment can make you infertile, your doctor should talk to you about having your sperm stored before treatment starts. This is sometimes called sperm banking. It means you and a partner may be able to have a child later on, even if treatment makes you infertile.

If you decide to have fertility treatment later, it is important to remember that NHS rules will apply to your partner as well as to you. Fertility treatment rules and funding vary across the UK. Talk to your fertility specialist about this.

Your cancer doctor can refer you to a fertility clinic straightaway. This means that having your sperm stored won’t cause too much delay to your treatment. But in some situations treatment has to start immediately, so sperm banking may not always be possible.

If you had cancer treatment in the past and are having problems with fertility talk to your cancer doctor. They can refer you and your partner to a fertility expert for tests and advice.

Back to Fertility in men

Getting support

You might find it helpful to talk to family, friends or healthcare professionals about fertility.