Men’s options before cancer treatment

Here we discuss ways a man can preserve his fertility before starting cancer treatment. It’s ideal to discuss the options with your cancer or fertility specialist at this time. See the Making decisions for more on this.

Some choices, such as sperm banking and radiation shielding, are well-established ways to preserve fertility. Others, such as testicular sperm extraction, are still being researched and may not be available to all men. The different choices depend on the type of cancer you have and your personal preferences.

Ask your cancer specialist how long you have to consider your options. In many cases, you can wait a week or two before starting cancer treatment. Fertility treatments carry some risks and your doctor should discuss these before you go ahead. Keep in mind that no method works all of the time.

If you didn’t have an opportunity to discuss your options before cancer treatment, you can still consider your fertility later. Your choices after treatment will depend on whether you are able to produce sperm. See the Men’s options after cancer treatment for detailed information.

  — Zac

Learn more about:

Sperm banking or sperm freezing (cryopreservation)

What is this?

The freezing and storing of sperm.

Sperm banking is one of the easiest and most effective methods of preserving a man’s fertility.

When is it used?

To delay the decision about having children, if you’re not yet sure what you want.

Samples can be stored for years, or even decades. Check the time limits with the fertility clinic, pay any annual fees, and keep your contact details up to date.

Once you are ready to start a family, the frozen sperm is sent to your fertility specialist.

How does it work?

The procedure is performed in hospital or in a sperm bank facility (often known as an andrology unit). Samples are collected in a private room where you can masturbate or have a partner sexually stimulate you, and you then ejaculate into a jar.

Sometimes you may need to visit the clinic more than once to ensure an adequate amount of semen is collected.

Other considerations

If you live near a sperm banking facility, you may be able to collect a sample at
home and deliver it to the laboratory within the hour. Sperm must be kept at room temperature during this time.

If you are unable to get an erection or produce a sample through masturbation,
other options include testicular biopsy or testicular stimulation techniques. You may be able to collect semen during sex using a special silicone condom.

You may feel nervous and embarrassed going to a sperm bank, or worry about
achieving orgasm and ejaculating. The medical staff are used to these situations.
You can also bring someone with you, if you would like.

Radiation shielding

What is this? Protecting the testicles from external radiation therapy with a shield.
When is it used? If the testicles are close to where external radiation therapy is directed (but are not the target of the radiation), they can be protected from the radiation beams.
How does it work? Protective lead coverings called shields are used.
Other considerations This technique does not guarantee that radiation will not affect the testicles, but it does provide some level of protection.

Testicular sperm extraction (TESE)

What is this? A method of looking for sperm inside the testicular tissue. Also called surgical sperm retrieval.
When is it used? If you don’t or are unable to ejaculate, or the semen ejaculated doesn’t contain sperm.
How does it work? You will be given a general anaesthetic and a fine needle will be inserted into the epididymis or testicle to find and extract sperm. This is called testicular aspiration. Collected sperm is frozen and can later be used to fertilise eggs during IVF.

Listen to our podcasts on Sex and Cancer and Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis

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

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.

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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”.
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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.

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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
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
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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
View who reviewed this content
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Cancer information

What is cancer?
How cancer starts and spreads

Sexuality, intimacy and cancer
This is for people with cancer and their partners. It aims to help you understand and deal with the ways cancer and its treatment may affect your sexuality.

Dealing with the diagnosis
Common reactions to a cancer diagnosis and how to find hope

View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends