Resources for Parents

Treatment of childhood cancer with surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy may damage male and female gonadal tissue and lead to infertility. Gonads are reproductive organs, which produce the gametes (sex cells). Male gonads are the testes or testicles, which produce sperm and female gonads are the ovaries, which produce ova. Fertility preservation is the cryopreservation (freezing) of human reproductive tissue. While we have strategies for cryopreservation of gonadal tissue in patients who have gone through puberty (physical changes by which a child’s body matures into an adult body) the potential strategies in children who have not gone through puberty have to be considered experimental. The following information sheets and videos give parents of pre-pubertal children information about the fertility preservation options available.

  • Fertility preservation options for children

What is involved in fertility preservation?

If you have made the decision for your child to undergo fertility preservation the fertility centre that is looking after you will give you more information about the steps that are involved in the process. The information sheets and videos in the section will help you prepare for the procedures and provides some questions that you may wish to ask your fertility specialist.

  • What is involved in testicular biopsy?
  • How are my child’s samples stored?
  • What happens to my child’s samples if they die?

During and after cancer treatment

Once your child’s treatment has started you will have more time to think about the effects of treatment including the possibility of infertility. It may be difficult to recall some of these conversations about fertility with your child’s doctor, which happened at a time when you also received information about your cancer diagnosis. You may feel very nervous about how you discuss fertility issues with your child as they get older and unsure about the right time to have these conversation.

Dealing with complications of cancer treatment

Unfortunately, cancer patients may experience emotional or physical complications of cancer treatment that can have an effect on their sexual function and fertility. Although your child may be too young to be in a relationship some of these symptoms may start during childhood such as delayed or failure to start puberty (physical changes by which a child’s body matures into an adult body), incontinence (leaking urine), pain or dryness in sexual organs.

Unfortunately, doctors may not always ask sexual health questions especially when patients are very young and not sexually active. This does not mean that your child’s symptoms are not important.