Some cancer treatments can affect your ability to have children. This is called fertility (fur-TILL-uh-tee.) This article tells you how men can be affected and how to plan ahead. You can do some things to have children later, even if you had cancer treatment.
How does cancer treatment affect a man’s ability to have children?
Chemotherapy and radiation are common cancer treatments. They can be very effective. However, they can also damage a man’s sperm or lower the amount he makes. Sperm are the cells that join with a woman’s egg to create a child.
Cancer treatment can have permanent effects on sperm. Men and boys who have cancer treatment might not make enough sperm to create a child naturally.
Freezing sperm for later in life
Taking some of your sperm and freezing it for later use could be your best option to have children in the future. However, no procedure has a 100% guarantee. Using frozen sperm works for many men, but not everyone.
Who can have sperm frozen?
You need to meet the requirements below.
- You have started puberty. This is the time when a boy goes through physical changes to become a man.
- You are able to have an erection.
- You are able to masturbate and collect semen.
- You have not had any cancer treatment or you are just starting treatment, depending on the treatment plan.
If you meet these requirements, your doctor will tell you if you may have sperm frozen, based on your situation.
What does it cost?
St. Jude will cover expenses for collecting and storing your sperm until you are 35 years old. However, there is no guarantee you will be able to have children in the future.
Having your sperm checked after treatment
You will need to have your sperm checked one (1) year after cancer treatment ends. St. Jude will pay for a test on your sperm to see if they are healthy and active. You may have the test even if you already froze sperm.
For the test, you masturbate and catch the fluid in a cup. It goes to a laboratory where your sperm are checked under a microscope. We give you the test results. Healthy men make sperm their entire lives. So, if you have sperm after treatment, you will probably keep making it. You might not need to use your frozen sperm. If your sample contains no sperm after treatment, it is likely that your body no longer makes it.
Other ways to have children after treatment
There are many ways to become a father after cancer. There is a chance your treatment will not affect your ability to have children. If so, you might have a child with your partner naturally. Other options include:
- Having doctors put your frozen sperm inside your partner’s egg in a laboratory. This is called “in vitro fertilization” (in-VEE-trow-fur-till-eye-ZAY-shun). Doctors put the fertilized egg inside her body when it is ready to grow.
- Using sperm from a donor.
- Adopting a child.
Families come in all shapes and sizes, and are created in many ways. Your St. Jude team is here to help you learn your options for having children after cancer treatment. We want to help you make the best choice for you.
Talk to your doctor, nurse, or someone else on your St. Jude team if you are concerned about having children after cancer treatment. This is important to talk about. The staff of the Fertility Preservation Clinic is here to help and answer your questions.
This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.
St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.
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