If your ability to father a child could be affected by cancer or your treatment, you might be able to store some sperm for the future.
It starts with you giving a sperm sample, which usually means masturbating into a cup or container. Your fertility team should do everything to put you at your ease, and give you privacy. The process itself is straightforward and some guys take it in their stride. But you’re certainly not alone if you feel embarrassed. It’s also natural to feel under pressure, especially in a clinical environment. It can help to remember that the staff are used to it, and no one at the centre will give it a second thought.
To give your sample, you should be offered a private and comfortable room in the hospital or a clinic. There might be adult videos or magazines to help you get stimulated, or you might be able to bring your own if you want to. Your partner might also be able to join you in the room – it depends on the policy at your hospital or clinic.
If you’re not well enough to leave the ward, it might still be possible to give a sample. You can talk to your nurse or doctor about this option.
Sometimes it’s possible to provide your sample at home, so ask your doctor, nurse or counsellor if you want to know whether this could work for you. Your sample needs to reach the laboratory quickly, so it partly depends on how far you live from the centre.
Talking about your worries
Embarrassing though it might be, talking about your worries can help you relax more about the situation. Your cancer care team will be able to help you with any concerns – including talking to your parents if you don’t want them to go to the hospital or clinic with you.
Giving several samples on different days has the best chance of success. But try not to worry if you can’t do this. With modern fertility treatments, one sample can be enough.
Once you’ve given your sample, your sperm will be checked at a laboratory. Experts will count your sperm cells and see how healthy they are.
Your sperm can then be frozen, usually for up to 10 years to start with. Later on, your sperm can be stored longer if you decide you want this.
Find out more
To find out what happens when you want to father a baby in the future, check out our information on having a baby after cancer treatment.
Published: December 2016
Review due: December 2019