When diagnosed with cancer, there are many decisions and treatment plans. One potential consideration is the future of your fertility. Future fertility may not be at the forefront of concern if family planning isn’t your immediate desire, but it’s important to understand how a cancer surgery or treatment may affect fertility before having the surgery or starting treatment. Depending on your circumstances, you might have to start the conversation yourself and be an advocate for your future fertility.
Certain types of cancer may have a higher likelihood of fertility problems. Children and teenagers who have cancer are often of particular concern.
Fertility for Men After Cancer
Certain types of cancer treatment can affect your hormones and your ability to get a partner pregnant in the future. Some treatments cause temporary infertility, while others could be more permanent.
Chemotherapy can damage sperm (informally, some support groups refer to this as “chemo sperm”), and radiation can harm fertility when it is directed at the testicles, nearby pelvis or abdomen, or the whole body. Future infertility can also result from radiation to the brain and pituitary gland (a hormone-producing gland at the base of the brain).
Not all individuals become infertile after cancer treatment. The impact that cancer treatment may have on your hormones depends on many factors:
- Type and amount of chemotherapy
- Dose and location of radiation therapy
- Site of surgery
A fertility test (semen analysis) can help determine if your fertility has been affected.
Men’s Hormones & Male Fertility
If your testicles have been affected by chemotherapy or radiation, you may have lower than normal testosterone production. It may be important for you to replace some of the hormones that may be missing. Your doctor can discuss this with you.
Men’s Sexual Health & Birth Control
If you are sexually active and now is not a good time to have a child, it is important to use a reliable method of birth control. Even if the sperm has been affected by chemotherapy, it can still be possible to have an unplanned pregnancy. Your doctor can discuss safe and effective methods with you.
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Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University
Seeing over 17,000 patients a year, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is Georgia’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and serves as the coordinating center for cancer research, education and care throughout Emory University.
About Dr. Mehta
Akanksha Mehta, MD, is an associate professor of Urology at Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Mehta’s clinical interests lie in the area of male reproductive and sexual medicine, and microsurgery. She currently serves at the Director of Male Reproductive Health at Emory Urology, and is a Guest Researcher in the Division of Reproductive Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Mehta’s research interests lie in studying the impact of male factor infertility on clinical outcomes following the use of assisted reproductive technologies, as well as the recovery of sexual function among prostate cancer survivors. She is the recipient of research awards from the Urology Care Foundation and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, for her work.
Dr. Mehta currently serves as the Director of Undergraduate Medical Education, and is closely involved in teaching and mentoring medical students and urology residents. She has authored several book chapters and peer-reviewed publications in Urology, and has presented at both regional and national meetings.