Chemotherapy and radiation can harm your fertility or cause sterility. For women, certain therapies can cause ovarian damage or failure, early menopause, genetic damage to growing eggs and other reproductive problems. For men, treatments can cause damage to the testes and interfere with sperm production.
With that said, not all cancer treatments harm fertility. The likelihood that this will occur depends on several factors, including type of cancer, treatment regimen, and age at the time of treatment. Fertility issues can be a temporary or permanent side effect of treatment. They can also occur immediately or at some point after treatment has ended.
Fertility preservation is an option for those cancer survivors who hope to have children naturally at some point in the future. Ask your oncology team about your infertility risks and consult a reproductive specialist if possible.
Get the Facts on Fertility Preservation for People with Cancer
In most cases, decisions on fertility preservation need to be made before treatment begins.
There are several incredible resources created to help cancer patients and survivors make sense of fertility preservation:
- MyOncofertility.org is a fantastic resource for patients and their parents and partners whose fertility may have or will be impaired by cancer treatments. This site provides answers to cancer-related fertility questions, guidance for talking to physicians about fertility concerns, and assistance in finding a local fertility preservation specialist.
- SaveMyFertility.org is another great resource for adult cancer patients and the parents of children with cancer who want to learn more about preserving their fertility before and during cancer treatment, and protecting their hormonal health after treatment.
- Fertility Preservation Patient Navigator (powered by MyOncoFertility) is a super helpful, interactive tool that allows you to explore options for family building before, during and after cancer treatment.
- Fertline (866-708-FERT) connects patients with a fertility preservation program and refer them for consultations or procedures.
- Navigators from Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults or LIVESTRONG Cancer Navigation Services can also provide guidance through the experience.
Financial Assistance for Fertility Preservation
Fertility preservation can be expensive but there is financial assistance available.
- LIVESTRONG Fertility Discount Program provides access to discounted sperm banking services for qualified men. To learn about this program for men, click HERE. LIVESTRONG also offers assistance to qualified female applicants by providing access to fertility medications and discounted services from reproductive endocrinologists across the country. To learn about this program for women, click HERE.
- The Heart Beat Program offers eligible female patients select fertility medications at no cost. For more information on this program, click HERE.
What if you’ve already finished treatment and are now thinking about starting a family?
If you’ve already finished cancer treatment and are thinking about fertility for the first time, talk to your oncologist. Discuss your past cancer treatment and any possible effects on your fertility. If you are at risk of being infertile, your oncologist can refer you to a fertility specialist for help.
For a complete listing of organizations that provide fertility information and assistance programs for people with cancer, visit The CancerHawk Navigator.