Aug 27, 2015 10:00 AM

Author: Cancer Learning Center

For many people, becoming a parent is a major life goal. Cancer may threaten or delay that choice. The good news is that most cancer survivors can still choose parenthood after they complete treatment.

How can cancer affect fertility?

Fertility is the ability to produce children. Cancer and its treatment can cause infertility by interfering with necessary physical functions. Sometimes cancer treatment requires surgical removal of reproductive parts. Other cancer treatments such as radiation and some types of chemotherapies can cause infertility by killing sperm and egg cells. The cancer patient’s age, as well as the amount, duration, type, and location of cancer treatment, are all things that can decrease fertility.

What options are available?

For many cancer survivors, natural reproduction is possible after treatment. If not, consider an assisted approach such as egg or sperm freezing. In these approaches, before you undergo cancer treatment, your own reproductive cells are saved for future use. You need to discuss this with your health care provider before your treatment begins.

Sperm or egg donation is an option for cancer survivors who cannot use their own cells. Surrogacy is also possible, but there are legal restrictions. Couples can also opt for adoption. Adoption agencies often collect medical history information, so it is important to use an agency with experience in handling adoptions for cancer survivors.

Is it safe to have a child after cancer?

Yes. Research shows that children of cancer survivors have the same rate of birth defects as in the general population. Unless the birth parent has a family history of cancer or an inherited higher cancer risk, cancer rates are also the same as in the general population. Talk with your health care provider about your family cancer history.

The Cancer Learning Center’s health educators can suggest questions you may want to ask or provide a list of questions to help guide you. Call 1-888-424-2100 or e-mail

Cancer Learning Center

Huntsman Cancer Institute

Sign Up for Weekly Health Updates

Get weekly emails of the latest news from HealthFeed.