Can I have children after cancer treatment?

Many people can still have children naturally after they’ve finished treatment for cancer. For this reason, it’s important to keep using contraception until you’re sure you want to try for a baby.

It’s hard to predict what will happen for each individual. A lot depends on the type of cancer and what kind of treatment you had for it.  To get a better idea, you can have fertility tests after your cancer treatment is finished. Some people choose not to have these tests and that decision is fine, too. 

Fertility testing for women

Whether your periods have continued, stopped or come back is not a totally reliable way to tell if you can get pregnant after cancer treatment. It might not be possible to be completely sure, but you can have tests that will give a clearer picture. 

It takes a while for your ovaries to start working normally again, and for blood tests to give a reliable result. For this reason, your doctor may recommend waiting at least six months to a year after finishing treatment, before you have fertility tests.

You can ask your GP or cancer follow-up team to arrange the tests. If you did not freeze any eggs before your cancer treatment, you can still ask for fertility tests.

Blood tests to check your hormone levels will give some idea of whether your ovaries can produce eggs. You might also be offered an ultrasound scan of your ovaries. 

If your fertility tests suggest you should be able to get pregnant, it’s important to know this can change over time. Women who’ve had cancer treatment can get the menopause earlier, so talk to someone on your healthcare team about what this might mean for you.

If you’re feeling upset about fertility problems, talking to someone on your cancer team can help. If you’ve stored eggs, ovary tissue or embryos you should have been assigned a fertility counsellor, and this would be a good person to talk to. You can also check out our information on coming to terms with fertility issues. There are lots of organisations who help people with fertility problems, so don’t feel like you have to go it alone.

Fertility testing for men

After cancer treatment, you can give a sample of sperm for testing in a laboratory. This is to check the quantity and condition. The results of the tests will show how fertile you are at that point. 

It’s usually advised to wait a year after treatment to have a fertility test, because it takes the sperm a while to get back to normal. Sometimes this recovery process can take several years, and it’s fine if you want to continue having regular fertility tests.

If you froze some sperm before having cancer treatment, the fertility clinic may write to you and ask if you still want to keep your sperm in storage. They might also invite you to have a fertility test. 

You can still ask for the test if you did not freeze any sperm. Either way, you can ask your GP or your cancer follow-up clinic to refer you for fertility testing.

If you’re feeling upset about fertility problems, talking to someone on your cancer team can help. Any man who has stored sperm should have a designated fertility counsellor, and this would be a good person to talk to. You can also check out our information on coming to terms with fertility issues, and get help from support organisations that help people with fertility problems.

Published: December 2016
Review due: December 2019 

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