Fertility and Men With Cancer

Although not everyone ends up having children, most people want to at least have the option. Cancer – and treatment for cancer – can sometimes make this harder or even take this option away, or it can raise doubts about whether having children is even the right thing to do.

How cancer treatment will affect your fertility depends on the type of treatment you get. Fertility effects also depend on other factors, such as the type of cancer, where it is, your age and overall health, and your response to treatment.

If you can, talk with your doctor, nurse, or another member of your health care team about fertility before treatment. There might be ways to save or protect your fertility before and maybe even during treatment. But after treatment, options are often more limited. (Parents of children with cancer should consider this, too. These special concerns are addressed in Preserving fertility in boys and teens with cancer.)

Some of the things that must be considered when trying to preserve fertility are:

  • Age
  • Diagnosis
  • Type of cancer treatment
  • Time (some fast-growing cancers need to be treated right away)
  • Modesty or embarrassment
  • Cost

The most common reason men do not address fertility before treatment is lack of information. Talk to your medical team if you have concerns about your ability to father a child someday.

Most cancer survivors can still choose to become a parent if they wish. It might not happen the way it was expected to before cancer, but if you can be flexible, you’ll find that there are options to help.

What is infertility?

Infertility is not being able to start or maintain a pregnancy. For a man, it means that he cannot father a child.

Men are infertile if:

  • Their testicles don’t make sperm or don’t make sperm that function properly.
  • The pathways that carry sperm are blocked or cut off.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: November 6, 2013 Last Revised: November 6, 2013

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