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.  

Today there are a number of options available for people with cancer who wish to preserve their fertility before treatment begins or start a family after their treatment is completed.

Preserving Fertility in Girls and Women With Cancer 

Cancer therapy can affect a woman’s fertility in several ways. For example, certain treatments can damage or destroy the eggs that lie within the ovaries, alter hormone levels that regulate the growth of eggs, or damage important reproductive organs.

Options to preserve fertility before cancer treatment begins include:

  • oocyte cryopreservation, which involves stimulating the ovaries with medication and removing a group of mature eggs to be frozen for possible use in the future.
  • embryo cryopreservation, which involves stimulating the ovaries with medication, removing a group of mature eggs, and fertilizing them with sperm to create embryos to be frozen for possible use in the future.
  • ovarian transposition, in which a surgeon moves the ovaries out of the area of the pelvis that will receive radiation so as to protect them from damage.

Learn more about your possible options for preserving fertility before your cancer treatment begins, as well as possible fertility preservation techniques that may be available to you if you’ve already completed cancer treatment. Or get more extensive and detailed guidance on resources and options for building a family once treatment is completed.

Preserving Fertility in Boys and Men With Cancer

Certain treatments for cancer can impair the ability to produce sperm, alter hormone levels that regulate sperm production, or interfere with the ability to transfer sperm to a female partner during intercourse.

Options to preserve fertility before cancer treatment begins include:

  • sperm cryopreservation, which involves freezing or “banking” sperm for possible use in the future. Semen, which is the fluid that contains sperm, is usually obtained through masturbation. For men unable to collect semen this way, a procedure called electroejaculation can be done to collect it under anesthesia. If sperm isn’t present in the semen, testicular sperm extraction may be effective in extracting sperm directly from the testes.   
  • testicular shielding, which protects the testes (where sperm is produced) by blocking radiation that could affect them during radiation treatment that’s directed at the pelvis or groin

Learn more about preserving fertility and options for building a family. Or find out more about what’s involved in sperm banking, including centers where this is offered.