Fertility and cancer

Fertility and cancer

It is common for people affected by cancer to wonder about their ability to have children now or in the future. Sometimes cancer and its treatment can affect a person’s ability to conceive a child or maintain a pregnancy (fertility).

If you want to become a parent, add to your family, or even if you’ve not thought about having children, we hope this information will help you understand how to preserve your fertility before treatment and protect it during treatment, and explain your options after treatment.

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How cancer affects fertility

Cancer and its treatment may cause fertility problems. This will depend on the type of cancer and treatment you have. Infertility can range from difficulty having a child to the inability to have a child. Infertility after treatment may be temporary, lasting months to years, or permanent.

Women – Some cancer treatments may damage the ovaries and decrease the number of available eggs. Hormone production between the brain and the ovaries may also be affected. Surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy to treat cancer may damage reproductive organs. 

Men – Some cancer treatments may affect sperm quantity (low numbers of sperm are made), quality (the sperm that are made do not work properly) or motility (the sperm move poorly). Sometimes the testicles also become damaged or other reproductive organs are removed during surgery.

How age affects fertility

Age is one of the most important factors that influences the impact of cancer treatment on fertility.

Women’s age and fertility – Women are born with all the eggs they will have in their lifetime, but as women age, the number of eggs reduces. Fertility starts to decline after 30 and the decline speeds up after 35. It then becomes harder to conceive and the risk of genetic abnormality in the baby increases.

The impact of cancer treatments can vary with age.

Before puberty, the ovaries are more protected from chemotherapy or radiation therapy, although the effect of these treatments on fertility can range from mild to severe, depending on the drugs used and the dose. High doses may sometimes cause enough damage to the ovaries that both the onset of puberty and future fertility are affected.

After puberty, the ovaries are more sensitive to the effects of both chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and the risks increase as women get older. Even if reproductive function returns after treatment, women may experience early menopause.

Men’s age and fertility – The quality and quantity of men’s sperm decreases with age. This means it will take longer for their partner to get pregnant. Before and after puberty, chemotherapy and radiation therapy may affect sperm production and may cause infertility. The effect of radiation will depend on where the radiation is given and dose.

Click on the icon below to download the Fertility and Cancer booklet as a PDF.

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059


To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in May 2018
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