- Cancer Information
- Managing side effects
- Fertility and cancer
- Men’s options before cancer treatment
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.
All my life I had wanted to be a father. I didn’t want cancer to ruin my chances, so I stored my sperm before treatment started. I think of this as a bit of an insurance policy.
Learn more about:
- Sperm banking or sperm freezing (cryopreservation)
- Radiation shielding
- Testicular sperm extraction (TESE)
|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,
You may feel nervous and embarrassed going to a sperm bank, or worry about
|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.|
|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.|
We thank the reviewers of this booklet: Dr Yasmin Jayasinghe, Paediatric Gynaecologist, Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, Co-chair Fertility Preservation Taskforce, Melbourne, and Senior Lecturer, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Melbourne, VIC; Dr Peter Downie, Head, Paediatric Haematology-Oncology and Director, Children’s Cancer Centre, Monash Children’s Hospital, and Director, Victorian Paediatric Integrated Cancer Service, VIC; Carmen Heathcote, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland; Aaron Lewis, Consumer; Pampa Ray, Consumer; Dr Sally Reid, Gynaecologist, Fertility SA and Advanced Gynaecological Surgery Centre, Visiting Consultant, Women’s and Children’s Hospital, and Clinical Senior Lecturer, School of Paediatrics and Reproductive Health, The University of Adelaide, SA; A/Prof Kate Stern, Head, Fertility Preservation Service, The Royal Women’s Hospital and Melbourne IVF and Head, Endocrine/Metabolic Clinic, Royal Women’s Hospital, and Co-chair, AYA cancer fertility preservation guidance working group, VIC. Fertility and Cancer was developed as part of a research study into the experience of fertility after cancer led by Prof Jane Ussher at the Centre for Health Research, Western Sydney University. For a list of the other chief and partner investigators, see cancercouncil.com.au. We acknowledge the input of Dr Amanda Hordern and Prof Jane Ussher, who collaborated on the original draft. We thank CanTeen Australia and the American Cancer Society for permission to draw on their resources. We also thank the cancer survivors who took part in the Western Sydney University research project on fertility and cancer, and whose accounts have been quoted in this booklet.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
The information on this page is also available for download.
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