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Sexuality and Fertility in Men during Radiation Therapy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 6, 2023.

What do I need to know about sexuality and fertility in men during radiation therapy?

Radiation may damage your reproductive organs or cause a low sperm count. Radiation can also damage the DNA in sperm. Any of these may prevent you from being able to get a woman pregnant. Radiation can also decrease your testosterone levels, causing problems with sexual desire or function. You may also have trouble getting or keeping an erection. Ejaculation may be difficult or painful.

Male Reproductive System

What can I do before radiation therapy to protect my fertility?

Before you start radiation therapy, talk to healthcare providers about your family plans. It is important to store your sperm before you begin radiation therapy if you want children after treatment. DNA damage can happen after the first treatment. You can keep your sperm in a sperm bank before you begin treatment.

What do I need to know about fertility during and after radiation therapy?

Work with healthcare providers to plan a pregnancy with your partner if you did not store sperm before treatment. You may be able to get your partner pregnant during and after treatment, but radiation can harm an unborn baby. Radiation can also cause problems during pregnancy. Use birth control during the time you are treated with radiation therapy. Then wait 1 to 2 years after treatment before you try to get your partner pregnant. This may prevent problems with the pregnancy or harm to the baby. Talk to your healthcare provider about birth control options.

What can I do to manage side effects of radiation therapy?

  • Hormone replacement medicine may be given to increase your sex drive.
  • Enjoy other forms of intimacy if sex is uncomfortable or painful.
  • Get support by joining a support group or going to therapy. Changes in sexual function and fertility may be difficult for you and your partner.

Where can I go for support and more information?

  • American Cancer Society
    250 Williams Street
    Atlanta , GA 30303
    Phone: 1- 800 - 227-2345
    Web Address:

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have new or increased pain during or after sex.
  • You have bleeding from your penis during or after sex.
  • You have a change in erectile function or the amount of semen you make.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.