Frequently Asked Questions

Can cancer treatments affect my ability to have a child?

Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery and radiation can damage your fertility (ability to have a child). This effect can be temporary or permanent. Your risk depends on the type of cancer you have, treatments you receive, your age and your fertility status before cancer treatment.

What can I do to preserve my fertility?

The most effective way to preserve your fertility is by freezing your sperm before you start cancer treatment.

Can I still freeze sperm if I already started cancer treatment?

You should consult your health care provider regarding this option. Research shows that sperm quality may be compromised even after a single dose of cancer treatment. As a result, it is strongly recommended that you freeze your sperm before starting chemotherapy and/or radiation. There is no evidence to suggest that anesthesia has an effect on fertility, so men who underwent surgery (to treat cancer) may safely freeze sperm afterwards.

What does the sperm freezing procedure involve?

You will be asked to produce one or more sperm samples before the start of your cancer treatment. You can produce a sperm sample either at home or in a private room at the MUHC Reproductive Centre. Your sperm will be analyzed, frozen and stored. If you care unable (or do not wish) to produce a sperm sample by ejaculation, alternative ways of collecting sperm will be considered.

What are alternatives ways of collecting a sperm sample?

Testicular sperm aspiration (TESA) and testicular sperm extraction (TESE) are two fertility preservation options that may be considered to collect sperm directly from the testicles. Sperm can then be frozen for future use.

How long can sperm stay frozen?

Your sperm can stay frozen until the day you are ready to use it to have a baby.

How much does it cost to freeze and store sperm?

Sperm freezing for adolescents and adults diagnosed with cancer is covered under the Quebec Health Insurance Plan (RAMQ) as per bill 20 (chapter 25-34.3)

How long do I have to wait for an appointment?

There are no wait times for appointments.

How do I book a sperm freezing appointment?

Ask your oncology provider for a referral or call the MUHC Reproductive Centre at 514-843-1650

Is the sperm examined before it is frozen?

A semen analysis is performed on the sample. This simple test evaluates volume of the ejaculate, sperm count, motility and morphology. Sperm is then frozen, regardless of the quality of the sperm sample.

How is sperm cryopreserved (frozen)?

Once the semen sample is collected and examined it is mixed with liquid solutions (cryoprotectants) to help protect the sperm during the freezing process. The diluted sample is transferred into high security sperm straws, which are gradually frozen at an extremely low temperature (-196C). Once frozen, the sperm is stored in a secure storage and can be kept until the day you are ready to use it to have a baby.

After the cancer treatment, how do I know if I am fertile?

If you have been attempting to achieve pregnancy for 6 to 12 months or longer without success, you may be experiencing infertility. A semen analysis may give you valuable information aboutyour fertility status.

How long should I wait to try to conceive after my cancer treatments are finished?

Chemotherapy and radiation treatments may damage your sperm. Evidence suggests that it typically takes two years for damage to repair itself. For this reason, it is generally recommended that you wait at least two years (after your cancer treatment is finished) before trying to conceive. You should consult your health care team to determine your individual circumstances.

If I froze sperm prior to cancer treatment, but am still producing sperm after treatment, should I use the frozen sperm or try to conceive naturally?

This decision should be made with the help of your fertility specialist. Most fertility specialists would recommend that patients who recover fertility after cancer treatment first try to conceive naturally.

How will my frozen sperm be used when I am ready to have a child?

Your frozen sperm will be used to conceive a child through assisted reproduction such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Do children born to cancer survivors have higher risks of getting cancer themselves?

There is currently no evidence that children born to cancer survivors are more likely to develop cancer than children whose parents did not have cancer. The only exceptions are children born to parents with hereditary cancer syndromes (e.g. inherited retinoblastoma).

What would happen to the stored sperm sample if I don’t pursue fertility treatment or if I do not make it after the cancer treatment ?

At the time of the sperm freezing you will be asked to sign a consent form where you will state your intention regarding the use of your sperm sample for the future if you do not use it yourself.