An exploratory study of the lived experience of infertility among young men after cancer treatment

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University of New Brunswick


Although over 75% of adolescent and young adult (AYA) men want to be a father after cancer treatment, they do not know how cancer treatment can affect their fertility. There is a gap in knowledge on how these young men cope with infertility in their everyday lives. Accordingly, a qualitative study guided by the philosophy of hermeneutic phenomenology was conducted to elicit detailed descriptions of the lived experience of infertility among young men after cancer treatment. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with young men, reflexive journal, field notes and documents. Participants included four men (average age = 28.5 years) who had cancer and lived in urban cities in Atlantic Canada. They described infertility after cancer as the paradox of being infertile and the desire to be a father. Three themes emerged from the interviews: (1) How infertility affects me, (2) How infertility affects my relationships, and (3) I want the choice to bank sperm. Infertility touches all aspects of these young men’s lives, challenging their sense of self, relationships and fatherhood goals. The document review showed that fertility services are not distributed evenly across Canada, provincial funding fertility services of sperm banking varies across the provinces and affects men’s decision to bank sperm; and there is limited supportive care for AYA men who experience infertility. Understanding the experiences of infertility among young men after cancer treatment can help healthcare providers design and implement interventions around the issues of sexuality, fertility and fatherhood.