Coping with infertility

Some chemotherapy drugs cause infertility. This means that you can't have children. It may be temporary or permanent, depending on the drugs you have, your age and other factors.

Many people go on to have healthy children after chemotherapy. But some chemotherapy drugs can cause permanent infertility, especially in high doses.

Talk to your doctor about the risk of infertility before starting treatment. Sometimes your doctor can suggest treatment that is less likely to cause infertility.

If you have a partner, it might help if they join in the discussion. Then you can both learn all the facts. It's also a chance to talk over your feelings and choices for the future.

Your feelings about infertility

It can be very difficult to learn that you might no longer be able to have children. But people might react in different ways:

  • You might feel devastated if you wanted to have a child, or wanted more children.
  • You might be able to accept it and feel that beating cancer is more important.
  • You might accept the news to begin with, but find difficult to cope with when the treatment is over.

Not being able to have children might make you feel like you have lost a part of yourself. You might feel you are less masculine or less feminine. You may be very sad or angry that the drugs have changed your body. Your self confidence can drop.

It’s normal to feel anxious, afraid or depressed about how cancer and its treatment has affected your life. It can help to know that you're not alone. Many people have feel like you at some time during their treatment. It can be helpful to share experiences.

Getting help and support

It can help to talk to a close friend or relative. Or you may prefer to talk to someone outside your circle of family and friends.

Ask healthcare team about available counselling and support groups. Speaking with people who have gone through similar things can be a great comfort. You can look in our counselling section for information.

You may want to speak to a therapist or counsellor who specialises in fertility problems. Ask your healthcare team about this.

You may find some of the books in our general reading list useful. Some are written by patients who have coped with infertility. They can help you come to terms with infertility and other problems caused by chemotherapy. 

That Cancer Conversation

That Cancer Conversation is Cancer Research UK's podcast. In the episode exploring infertility and cancer, we chat with people whose cancer journey has had an impact on their fertility.

It also features Professor Richard Anderson, Deputy Director of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Reproductive Health. We explore options that are available and what the future of fertility medicine could look like.

Other support

Cancer, Fertility and Me is a website for people with cancer who are having treatment that may affect their fertility or chances of becoming pregnant in the future. 

It is written by fertility doctors, specialist nurses, psychologists and other professionals.

It aims to help people think about the treatments which may help to preserve their fertility. It also aims to help you prepare to talk with your healthcare team, partner, family and friends about fertility preservation before cancer treatment starts. 

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