- Cancer, sex, and sexuality
- How the male body works sexually
- Keeping your sex life going despite cancer treatment
- Erections and pelvic surgery to treat cancer
- Erections and pelvic radiation therapy
- Erections and chemotherapy
- Erections, desire, and hormone therapy
- Erections and the psychological effects of cancer treatment
- Ejaculation and cancer treatment
- Fertility and cancer treatment
- How common cancer treatments can affect sexuality and fertility
- Dealing with sexual problems
- Dealing with short-term problems
- Finding the cause of problems that appear to be permanent
- When is sexual counseling helpful?
- Is there a pill that will cure sexual problems?
- Is there a way to restore erections if the nerves or blood supply of the penis has been damaged?
- Methods to help with erections
- Can testosterone restore sexual functioning?
- What about herbs or natural cures for erection problems?
- Is there a way to make orgasms as intense as they used to be?
- Special aspects of some cancer treatments
- Feeling good about yourself and feeling good about sex
- Chemotherapy changes the way you look
- Changing negative thoughts
- Overcoming depression
- Dealing with grief and loss
- Rebuilding self-esteem
- Good communication: The key to building a successful sexual relationship
- Overcoming anxiety about sex
- Rekindling sexual interest
- Sexual activity with your partner
- The single man and cancer
- Men who have sex with men
- Frequently asked questions
- Professional help
- About the American Cancer Society
- Additional resources
Fertility and cancer treatment
Some cancer treatments can cause men to become infertile (unable to father a child). Total body irradiation (as used in stem cell or bone marrow transplant) and radiation treatment to an area that includes the testes can reduce both the number of sperm and their ability to function. This does not mean that pregnancy can’t happen, but it becomes far less likely.
Some types of chemo can damage the sperm over the short term, while others can cause life-long infertility. It depends on the types and doses of the drugs used. The short-term changes have been shown to last about 3 months after the last treatment. Because the risk of birth defects due to sperm damage is hard to study, there is not much information about this link. To reduce this possible risk, doctors often recommend that a man use careful birth control during chemo and for some months after treatment is complete. So far, no studies have reported increased birth defects or cancers in children naturally conceived from fathers who had cancer treatment in the past.
Several types of surgery to the pelvic and genital area can cause infertility. If both testicles are removed, for example, sperm cells are no longer made and a man becomes infertile (or sterile). See the “Ejaculation and cancer treatment” section for information on the types of surgery that can cause infertility.
If you want to father a child and are concerned about fertility, talk to your doctor before starting treatment. One option may be to bank (save and preserve) your sperm. (See our document called Fertility and Cancer: What Are My Options? for more information.) If you are not sure about your wishes to be a father in the future, you may want to work with a sperm bank to learn more about the procedure and its costs.
Last Medical Review: 10/28/2011
Last Revised: 10/28/2011