Movember is the month dedicated to testicular cancer awareness – we take a look at what testicular cancer is all about, how it can potentially affect fertility in males and the various options available to men who have won the battle against this disease.
What is testicular cancer?
• A type of cancer that occurs in men’s testicles
• Young men are most at risk
• Early diagnosis can save your life.
Even though testicular cancer is not very common, it is a serious concern for young men. It is the most common cancer among men aged 20–34. But if testicular cancer is found and treated early, it is usually curable, but the question is – how does testicular cancer and it’s treatment affect your ability to father a child?
Intensive chemotherapy treatments may lengthen the process, but many testicular cancer survivors have fathered children naturally. Most men with testicular cancer who were fertile prior to being diagnosed are able to father children after treatment. The biggest risk to fertility is chemotherapy but research shows thatapproximately 7 out of 10 (70%) are able to father children.
If your treatment for testicular cancer does cause permanent infertility, you will no longer be able to father a child. This can be very hard to accept if you were hoping to have children. You and your partner should discuss this possibility with your doctor before you start treatment. You should be offered the opportunity of sperm banking before starting treatment if you are concerned about your future fertility.
Sometimes the lymph glands in your abdomen need to be surgically removed , especially if they are still enlarged after radiotherapy or chemotherapy. This can affect your fertility because the operation can cause retrograde ejaculation. New techniques in surgery are helping to reduce this problem.
Although this surgery may mean you cannot father a child, it has no physical effect on your ability to have an erection or an orgasm.
Chemotherapycan cause temporary infertility in most men with testicular cancer. In some men, fertility may not recover, particularly in those who have had very high doses of chemotherapy. Talk to your doctor if you are worried about whether chemotherapy will affect your fertility. You can have tests to see if your fertility has gone back to normal and your doctor can discuss this with you and your partner while advising you regarding a fertility supplement such as Prelox® to encourage normal and improved sperm production.
The multiple benefits of Prelox® include:
• Increase in the anti oxidative capacity of plasma.
• Stimulates the activity of e-NOS (endothelial nitric oxide synthetase).
• In combination with L-Arginine (Prelox®) increases e-NOS in spermatozoa.
• An increase in spermatozoa NO (Nitric Oxide) increases sperm motility and human sperm capacitance.
Some men with testicular cancer have a low sperm count prior to treatment. In these men successful treatment with chemotherapy can result in their sperm count returning to a more normal level.
Your doctor may offer you the opportunity to save some semen before treatment begins. If your sperm is suitable and you want to store some for the future, you need to give 2 or 3 semen samples over a period of a few days at a fertility clinic. The samples are frozen and stored by the hospital until you are 55. If you and your partner want to have a child in the future, the samples are thawed and used in conduction with fertility treatment.
Counselling for your and your partner may be offered at the fertility clinic before you have sperm banking. You will also need to sign a consent form that states how you want your sperm to be used. You will have blood tests to check for any illnesses or infections, such as HIV or hepatitis.
If the cancer has spread and you need to start your chemotherapy right away due to life threatening concerns, your doctor may advise against sperm banking because it may delay the start of your cancer treatment.
You may be able to benefit from sperm banking even if your sperm count is low. It is quite common for men with testicular cancer to have a low sperm count.. When you want to use the sperm, the sample is thawed and the surviving sperm are used to fertilise your partner’s egg. In order to improve your sperm count prior to sperm banking, talk to your doctor about a a fertility supplement such as Prelox® which can increase your sperm count and improve the quality of your sperm sample.
The fertilised egg is then implanted in the womb to grow naturally. This is the same as the test tube baby technique. Doctors can’t guarantee that it will work for you. Some sperm die when the sample is thawed. And the test tube technique doesn’t always work first time, thus it is important to have the highest quality sperm sample that you can manage.