Having children

My partner and I are hoping to have children. Will cancer and treatment change things?

Advice columnist and relationship expert Matt Whyman answers:

It's only natural to consider the impact cancer treatment might have on your fertility. For some people, this can be a deeply emotional question. Your medical team will recognise this, and can answer any questions you have.

Even if you don't have plans to have children, talking things through will help keep you informed.

Cancer and fertility

Cancer specialist Dr Dan Yeomanson explains: "Some cancers and some cancer treatments can reduce your ability to have children. This may be temporary or permanent, or may not become obvious until many years after you've finished treatment. It depends on your individual situation: what type of cancer you have, the kind of treatment, and whether you're male or female. So it's extremely important to discuss this with your healthcare team."

Storing sperm, eggs or embryos

Dan has this advice: "For men, it should be possible to save your sperm for the future. Sperm banking is widely available, and can be organised fairly quickly. But it needs to be done before treatment starts, which is not always possible if you are very unwell when you're diagnosed.

"Women may be able to store eggs or embryos (eggs that have been fertilised with sperm from your partner). This is a more complex procedure, which takes at least a couple of weeks, and it may not be right for everyone."

Talk things through

Whatever concerns you might have about your cancer treatment and fertility, take the opportunity to speak to your care team. Just talking things through will help you make sense of things, and provide you with a clearer picture.

Your care team will also give you the support you need to make informed decisions. This means that whatever happens, you can look back knowing you handled a challenging situation to the best of your abilities.

Talk to your care team

Lucia, a 25-year-old who's had cancer, has this advice: "Even though all precautions may be taken to protect your fertility, medical professionals may still not know if treatment will change things and this may cause you a lot of worry.

"My advice would be to talk to someone you trust about this and see what your options are. It may be possible to have fertility tests once treatment is completed and this is another thing to ask your treatment team about."

Content added: November 2015
Review due: November 2017