Starting cancer treatment

Your cancer doctor or nurse should talk to you about fertility before you start cancer treatment. If there is a risk it may affect your fertility, they will talk to you about fertility preservation.

Young person talking to nurse

This means if your fertility is affected, you may still be able to have children in the future. You do not have to be in a relationship or know if you want to be a parent to have fertility preservation.

Your doctor or nurse will explain if fertility preservation is possible. For some people, cancer treatment needs to start straight away and there is not enough time.

Making decisions about your treatment

Talking about sex and fertility can be hard. It is personal, and some people feel embarrassed. But your healthcare team often have these conversations and they will try to answer your questions. It is important you get all the information and support you need. This will help you make decisions about your treatment.

If your healthcare team uses words you do not understand, ask them to explain. If you need time to go away and think, let them know. There may be questions you do not want to ask in front of your partner, family or other people. Tell your doctor or nurse you want to talk about something privately. They will arrange a time and place to do this.


Preventing pregnancy

It may be confusing if your doctor tells you to use contraception when they have also told you that you may be infertile. It is not always possible to know how cancer treatment will affect
your fertility. You may still be able to get pregnant or make someone pregnant.

Some cancer treatments may harm a baby if the pregnancy starts during treatment. You should use contraception to prevent a pregnancy during your treatment and for some time after. 

There are many types of contraception. Ask your doctor or nurse which is best to use during your treatment. This will depend on you and the type of cancer treatment you are having.

Condoms or caps (diaphragms) can be used during all types of cancer treatment. Some hormonal contraceptives (such as the pill, patch, injection or implants) may not work during some types of cancer treatment. This is because of:

  • the drugs you are taking
  • side effects you may have, such as diarrhoea and vomiting.

Safe sex during cancer treatment

If you have sex during cancer treatment, it is important to protect you and your partner.

Small amounts of chemotherapy, or other drugs, can get into your body fluids. This includes fluid made in the vagina and the fluid that contains sperm. To protect your partner, your cancer doctor may advise that for a few days after treatment you:

  • use a condom or a latex barrier such as a dental dam for oral sex
  • use a condom for vaginal or anal sex.

Using condoms and dental dams also helps protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This is important even if you are not having cancer treatment. But it is even more important if your cancer treatment affects how your body fights infections.