Fertility and Cancer
- About fertility and cancer
- What are reproduction and fertility?
- Fertility after a cancer diagnosis
- Making decisions
- Treatment side effects and fertility
- Female options before cancer treatment
- Female options after cancer treatment
- Male options before cancer treatment
- Male options after cancer treatment
- Preserving fertility in children and adolescents
- Other ways to be a parent
- Not having a child
- Emotional impact
- Relationships and sexuality
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Fertility and Cancer
It’s best to talk about ways to preserve or protect your fertility before cancer treatment begins.
Get expert advice – Most people find it helpful to talk to a fertility specialist about their fertility options. Ask your cancer specialist whether you should see a fertility specialist or oncofertility specialist. You can also get a referral from your general practitioner (GP). As well as explaining your fertility options, these specialists can help with contraception and hormone management to prevent ovulation during cancer treatment. It’s best to see a fertility specialist as soon as possible after diagnosis to prevent any delays to treatment
Ask questions – It’s important that you feel comfortable enough to ask about the possible impact of different cancer treatments on your fertility, the possible risks of having treatment to preserve your fertility and the risk of delaying treatment to have fertility treatment. You may find it helpful to plan some questions in advance and to take notes during the discussion.
It’s your decision – After a cancer diagnosis, you may feel too overwhelmed by decisions about treatment to think about fertility. Or you may be asked to make fertility decisions before you’ve given much thought to whether you want to have a child in the future. Even if you think, “But I don’t want kids anyway” or “My family is complete”, you may be encouraged to consider as many fertility options as possible to keep your choices open for the future. These decisions are personal, and you need to feel comfortable with your choices.
What to consider when making decisions
After a cancer diagnosis, you may need to make decisions about your fertility. These decisions can be difficult, particularly if you have several options to consider and you feel that everything is happening too fast
Learn more about the options – Generally, people make decisions they are comfortable with – and have fewer regrets later – if they gather information and think about the possible outcomes. Ask your health professionals to explain each fertility option, including risks, benefits, side effects, costs and success rates.
Expect to experience doubts – It’s common to feel unsure when making tough decisions. Keeping a journal or blog about your experience may help you come to a decision and reflect on your feelings.
Talk it over – Discuss the options with people close to you (such as your partner, a friend or family member) or with a fertility counsellor or psychologist. Research
shows that couples who make fertility decisions together are happier with the outcome, whatever it is.
Use a decision aid – A decision aid outlines the available options and helps you focus on what matters most to you. They are available online or in booklets. Breast Cancer Network Australia has developed a resource called Fertility-related choices to help younger women with breast cancer make fertility-related decisions.
The main costs of fertility treatment
Fertility preservation can be expensive, and this may influence your decision-making. The cost of specialists and private clinics vary across Australia. You may also be able to have treatment at a fertility unit in a public hospital or a clinic that provides discounted fertility treatment for cancer patients. Ask your fertility clinic about costs.
Depending on the treatment you have, costs may include:
- fertility specialist consultations – ask if they offer a discount for people diagnosed with cancer
- medicines and blood tests
- fees for procedures (e.g. the different steps in the IVF cycle for egg or sperm collection, preimplanation genetic testing and implantation of embryos after treatment)
- day surgery, operating theatre and anaesthetist fees
- egg, sperm and embryo storage (cryopreservation) – ask your clinic about up-front payments, instalment payments and ongoing fees.
How much you have to pay will depend on whether you are a public or private patient. If you are a private patient, there may be Medicare rebates for some of these costs. Ask your fertility specialist for a written estimate of their fees and any Medicare rebates. Ask your private health fund (if you belong to one) what costs they will cover and what you’ll have to pay – some funds only pay benefits for services at certain hospitals.
Medicare will cover the cost to see a specialist only if you have a referral. The referral should list both you and your partner so you can claim the maximum benefit.
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This information is reviewed by
This information was last reviewed October 2022 by the following expert content reviewers: Prof Martha Hickey, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, The University of Melbourne and Director, Gynaecology Research Centre, The Royal Women’s Hospital, VIC; Dr Sally Baron-Hay, Medical Oncologist, Royal North Shore Hospital and Northern Cancer Institute, NSW; Anita Cox, Cancer Nurse Specialist and Youth Cancer Clinical Nurse Consultant, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Kate Cox, McGrath Breast Health Nurse Consultant, Gawler/ Barossa Region, SA; Jade Harkin, Consumer; A/Prof Yasmin Jayasinghe, Director Oncofertility Program, The Royal Children’s Hospital, Chair, Australian New Zealand Consortium in Paediatric and Adolescent Oncofertility, Senior Research Fellow, The Royal Women’s Hospital and The University Of Melbourne, VIC; Melissa Jones, Nurse Consultant, Youth Cancer Service SA/NT, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Dr Shanna Logan, Clinical Psychologist, The Hummingbird Centre, Newcastle West, NSW; Stephen Page, Family Law Accredited Specialist and Director, Page Provan, QLD; Dr Michelle Peate, Program Leader, Psychosocial Health and Wellbeing Research (emPoWeR) Unit, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, The Royal Women’s Hospital and The University of Melbourne, VIC; Pampa Ray, Consumer; Prof Jane Ussher, Chair, Women’s Health Psychology, and Chief Investigator, Out with Cancer study, Western Sydney University, NSW; Prof Beverley Vollenhoven AM, Carl Wood Chair, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Monash University and Director, Gynaecology and Research, Women’s and Newborn, Monash Health and Monash IVF, VIC; Lesley Woods, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA.