Improvements in cancer treatment have made it possible for more people to live longer, healthier lives after cancer. But many of these new therapies also carry a risk of affecting the ability to have children.  

People with cancer have a number of options to preserve fertility before treatment begins or start a family after treatment is over.

Preserving Fertility in Girls and Women With Cancer 

Cancer therapy can affect a woman’s fertility in several ways. Certain treatments can damage or destroy the eggs within the ovaries or the reproductive organs themselves. Others can alter hormone levels that regulate the growth of eggs.

Options to preserve fertility before cancer treatment begins include:

  • egg freezing (oocyte cryopreservation), in which a group of mature eggs are removed and frozen for possible use in the future
  • embryo freezing (embryo cryopreservation), in which a group of mature eggs are removed and fertilized with sperm to create embryos that are frozen for possible use in the future
  • ovarian transposition, in which a surgeon moves the ovaries to protect them from radiation treatment that is directed to the pelvis
  • Learn more about possible options for preserving fertility before your cancer treatment begins. Read about techniques to evaluate and preserve fertility after treatment. Or get more detailed guidance on resources and options for having a family once treatment is completed.

Preserving Fertility in Boys and Men With Cancer

Certain treatments for cancer can affect the ability to produce sperm. They can also alter hormone levels that regulate sperm production or interfere with the ability to transfer sperm to a female partner during sex.

Options to preserve fertility before cancer treatment begins include:

  • sperm banking, in which sperm are frozen for possible use in the future. Sperm is usually obtained through masturbation, but there are also medical techniques available to collect sperm if needed (electroejaculation and testicular sperm extraction)   
  • testicular shielding, which protects the testes (where sperm is produced) by blocking radiation during treatment that’s directed at the pelvis or groin

Learn more about sperm banking before your cancer treatment begins, as well as options for building a family once treatment is completed.

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Our Fertility Nurse Specialists

We have special training in fertility-related issues for people with cancer. Talk to your doctor or nurse if you are a patient at MSK and would like to speak to one of us.

 

Joanne Kelvin

Fertility Nurse Specialist Joanne Kelvin


Rosemary Semler

Fertility Nurse Specialist Rosemary Semler