Sperm Banking: Fertility Options for Men Undergoing Cancer Treatment
When you are facing cancer treatment (surgery, chemotherapyor radiation therapy), you will find yourself with a lot of questions. If you are young or want to start a family, you may wonder how treatment will affect your ability to father children in the future. Certain cancer treatments may temporarily or permanently affect your fertility.
In a technique known as sperm banking, your sperm are frozen (called cryopreservation) and stored. Should you decide to become a father at some point in the future, you will have that opportunity, even if the cancer treatment has affected your fertility.
In order to bank your sperm, you will need to collect a sample of your semen. This usually takes place in a private collection room at a sperm bank. You may choose to collect the sample on your own or you may have your wife or partner come into the room with you.
Once your sample is collected, it will be tested to determine your sperm count (how many sperm cells it contains) and the sperm motility level (how active the sperm cells are). Your sperm is also tested for sexually transmitted diseases, including hepatitis and HIV. These viruses can be transmitted in the semen. Then, it is placed in a special container and frozen at extremely low temperatures.
Chemotherapy is designed to damage and kill cells like cancer cells that are dividing rapidly. Unfortunately cancerous cells are not the only cells in your body that divide rapidly. Some cells in your testicles are also doing this to create sperm. So chemotherapy can also damage them. It is quite probable that with chemotherapy, you will experience some period of infertility.
High doses of chemotherapy, such as those given before a bone marrow or stem cell transplant may cause permanent sterility. Radiation therapy, particularly whole-body irradiation or radiation aimed at or near your testicles, may also affect sperm production. Some cancer surgeries, such as those for prostate or testicular cancer, require men to have parts of their reproductive system removed. These surgeries may damage the nerves important for normal ejaculation.
If you know you are going to have cancer treatment, you may want to think about banking your sperm in advance, just in case you want it in the future.
Last reviewedDecember 2012by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.