Should You Bank Your Sperm Before Testicular Cancer Treatment?

What men with testicular cancer should know about sperm banking

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For many men undergoing treatment for testicular cancer, the ability to conceive a child is a top priority. However, treatment methods like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy all affect fertility in varying degrees, often causing permanent or temporary infertility. The good news is that many men are able to father children naturally following treatment. There are no definitive means of predicting this, so fertility planning is essential before beginning treatment. It's important to plan early if you intend to have children after treatment.

Before undergoing treatment, it is important that you immediately express your desire to have children to your oncologist. Your doctor will offer advice about what options may be available in preserving your fertility and refer you to a fertility specialist who has experience in treating men who have undergone testicular cancer treatment. It will likely be recommended that you bank your sperm prior to treatment. This is a very common recommendation and the decision needs to be made fairly quickly. If you choose to bank your sperm, it is best to do so before treatment begins.

Sperm Banking Basics for Men Undergoing Testicular Cancer Treatment

In this excerpt, provided by UpToDate-- an electronic resource used by many patients and their doctors looking for in-depth medical information-- you can see how many doctors encourage men with testicular cancer to bank their sperm:

"Men preparing to have treatment for testicular cancer should consider storing their sperm for future use. The storage process is called semen cryopreservation and involves storing semen at very low temperatures. Cryopreservation requires that a man give several samples of semen. Ideally, a semen sample should be collected in a clinician's office after masturbation; if this is not possible, the man may be allowed to collect a sample at home in a sterile laboratory container or chemical-free condom.

"If possible, collection should be started before surgical removal of the testicle and before chemotherapy or radiation therapy; this allows the greatest number and healthiest sperm to be stored."

Generally, three samples are ideal for adequate sperm preservation. Before giving a sample, you should abstain from ejaculation for 24 to 48 hours. Samples can be given at the fertility office or at home, provided you can transport the sample to the clinic within an hour. Masturbation is the most common way of obtaining a sperm sample, but in some cases, a special condom may be used.

Prior to sperm storage, banking facilities will screen for infectious diseases and may require a physical. If you name a recipient, some states require her to be screened for infectious diseases, as well. Sperm samples will be screened for count and motility. Keep in mind that there is a fee for storage and it varies among facilities. You should expect to pay about $50 or more per month for storage and at least $1,500 for administrative, physician, and lab fees. Some health insurance plans may cover the cost of part or all of the initial services. Check with your insurance provider and doctor's office staff prior to beginning the banking process.

Your sperm can be stored for an unlimited amount of time. Time does not degrade the quality of the sperm. Decades later, stored sperm can still be used and the count or motility will not have been compromised by the cryopreservation. This makes sperm cryopreservation an excellent option for those who know they would like children and also those who are undecided. Testicular cancer often strikes men at a young age, so storing sperm allows you to leave your family planning options open for the future. 

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