The most common cancer that leads to infertility is testicular cancer. While many forms of testicular cancer are treatable, the risk of infertility is a huge concern especially for those men who have not yet had any children.
Many men who are diagnosed with testicular cancer are concerned about the effects on their ability to have children after they undergo treatment.
The good news is that almost 80 percent of men who undergo cancer treatment remain fertile after the treatment is complete.
The biggest risk to male infertility is chemotherapy due to the drugs involved, however, men who undergo this treatment have a 70 percent chance of maintaining their fertility.
Before you start cancer treatment it’s important that you talk to your partner about the possibility of your fertility being affected.
If having a child is something that is important to you the option of preserving your sperm is something that you might want to think about.
The Realities of Testicular Cancer
Testicular cancer was once quite rare but the numbers are on the increase. This type of cancer is highly curable, particularly when it’s caught in the early stages.
Even though testicular cancer is rare it’s the most common type of cancer in young boys and men between the ages of 15 to 35. This is why preserving fertility is such an important factor for this form of cancer.
While most men will still be fertile after cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy, many oncologists will suggest sperm banking as a backup plan.
This way if sperm is damaged during treatment, there will still be the option of using infertility treatments such as IVF (in vitro fertilization) to genetically conceive a child.
It is recommended that men who are diagnosed with testicular cancer delay having a child for at least one year after they’ve completed radiation or chemotherapy, to ensure that the sperm is as healthy as possible.
Cancer Treatments and Infertility
In most cases of testicular cancer, the cancerous testicle will be removed. The remaining healthy testicle will be able to produce enough sperm for conception to occur.
The two biggest risks to male fertility are radiation and chemotherapy treatments; however, modern medicine has come a long way when it comes to increasing your chances of staying fertile despite these treatments.
If you need to have radiation, your oncologist will use a special device to shield your healthy testicle from radiation. As well, the radiation doses can be adjusted with your fertility in mind.
The latest in radiation technology allows the beams to be much more accurate. When it comes to chemotherapy there are many drugs in this form of treatment that can damage your sperm.
Some of these drugs will be more harmful than others. Your oncologist will combine certain drugs and make adjustments to the doses to protect your fertility as much as possible.
After treatment for testicular cancer it may take up to two years for your fertility to return and your sperm count to be adequate for conception to take place.
Testicular Cancer and Removal of Lymph Nodes
Yet another risk to fertility for some men who have testicular cancer is RPLND (retroperitoneal lymph node dissection). In some cases of this type of cancer, the lymph nodes that are located at the back of the abdomen will have to be removed because they are cancerous as well.
RPLND surgery involves the severing of those nerves that are responsible for ejaculation.
This can result in something known as retrograde ejaculation where the sperm moves into the bladder rather than being ejaculated out through the penis.
This can lead to infertility problems. High doses of the pseudoephedrine drug can produce normal ejaculation, however, for some men, even this won’t help.
This means that sperm will have to be retrieved manually and used in other infertility treatment options. There are some surgeons who can perform a new surgical technique that is known as “nerve-sparing RPLMD.”
This delicate surgery is done very carefully around the nerves in order to allow for normal ejaculation, however, not all urological surgeons are yet trained in this technique.
Testicular Cancer and Sperm Cryopreservation
When you’re diagnosed with testicular cancer you’ll most likely be starting treatment right away and the last thing on your mind will be how your fertility is going to be affected.
One of the things that you need to think about is preserving your fertility. It’s important that you talk to your doctor about the risks you face of becoming infertile.
Find out what your options are before you even start treatment. There are many fertility centers that will work with you and your oncologist to preserve your ability to have children in the future.
As testicular cancer rates around the world raise more and more men are turning to sperm cryopreservation so that in the future they have the option of using their sperm to genetically father a child.