Most methods to preserve fertility need to be done before cancer treatment begins. The options available depend on several factors:
- How physically and sexually mature a man is
- Relationship status, such as whether a man currently has a female partner
Your doctor and/or a doctor who specializes in fertility issues can help you explore your options to preserve fertility. A doctor who specializes in fertility problems is called a reproductive endocrinologist.
Your options may include:
- Protecting the testes from radiation therapy. It is possible to shield the testes from radiation if the cancer is in another part of the pelvis. This prevents sperm damage.
- Sperm banking. This procedure involves freezing and storing semen for intrauterine insemination or for in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures. IVF is a process that involves collecting a woman’s eggs and fertilizing them with the stored sperm outside her body. Then the embryo is put back into her body to develop.Sperm banking is an option for most men who have been through puberty. Even with few sperm, it is still possible to attempt pregnancy through a procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). During ICSI, a sperm is injected directly into an egg obtained during IVF.
- Testicular sperm extraction and epididymal sperm aspiration. This procedure is for men who do not have mature sperm in their semen. It involves removing a small amount of tissue from the testicle and examining it under the microscope for mature sperm. Then, any mature sperm are frozen or used immediately for IVF.
Not all of these options are right for everyone. Some of these methods can be costly and stressful during an already stressful time, and their effectiveness varies. You may consider speaking with a counsellor for guidance about these decisions, in addition to your doctor or treating specialist.
It is important to use contraception throughout your treatment. You should avoid fathering a child while you’re having treatment for cancer, as some of the drugs could harm the developing baby.
More information can be found options-for-men