Male coping with cancer-fertility issues: putting the 'social' into biopsychosocial approaches

Reprod Biomed Online. 2013 Sep;27(3):261-70. doi: 10.1016/j.rbmo.2013.04.017. Epub 2013 May 16.


Biopsychosocial approaches in infertility and cancer services and research pay limited attention to 'social dimensions'. Additionally, existing cancer-related male infertility research is dominated by sperm banking studies even though fertility-related social concerns in the long term are reported to have an adverse effect on wellbeing. This paper considers whether social influences affected the fertility-related experiences of 28 men interviewed as part of a mixed-gender qualitative study of 'South Asian' and 'White' cancer survivors and their professional carers. Findings are reported under: managing stigma; sexuality and virility; ambiguity in fertile status; relationship to sperm; and meaning of fatherhood. Gender and other social influences were ambiguous, fluid and subtle--yet powerful. Combinations were neither standard nor static, indicating the dangers of practitioners stereotyping, and/or assuming homogeneity of, (in)fertile men and being unaware of their own socialized expectations. Social structures and attitudes towards valued male social roles as well as the men's psychological capacity and bodily state appear to affect experience. Men may more readily be engaged if practitioners proactively attend to the impact of social concerns, including employment and financial matters, on their perceived capacity to be fathers as a route into raising issues of sexuality and fertility.

Keywords: biopsychosocial; cancer; cancer survivors; fatherhood; male infertility; oncofertility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Fathers / psychology
  • Fertility Preservation / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / etiology
  • Infertility, Male / psychology*
  • Male
  • Men / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Sexism
  • Social Stigma