Sperm Freezing For Cancer Patients

7 Important Factors in Sperm Freezing For Cancer Patients

Many cancer survivors want to preserve fertility or have children after they’ve been treated. This article will discuss a possible solution for male infertility in cancer patients: sperm freezing.

Why Is Sperm Freezing For Cancer Patients Important?

There are two main reasons sperm freeing is important for cancer patients:

  • Cancer and its treatments (chemotherapy, radiation) have detrimental impacts on sperm health. These effects may be temporary or permanent and are more prominent after the treatment starts. So it’s a good idea to bank sperm before this happens.
  • The rebound time to reverse temporary male infertility can take years. Although newer drugs may reduce it to 9 to 24 months, the stakes are higher.

How Does Cancer Affect Male Fertility?

Cancer affects male fertility in two main ways.

Impacts of malignant disease on male fertility

Malignancy is the excessive proliferation of cells in your body. As abnormal cells infiltrate tissues and organs, your body may lose the ability to regulate the affected organ.

Tumor formation has many effects, including:

  • Hormonal changes: Some tumors secrete hormones or interfere with hormone secretion. This may lower testosterone levels, which can lead to decreased spermatogenesis.
  • Immune system response: Your body responds to a tumor by activating your immune system. The immune system secretes antibodies which may also attack other parts of the body, like sperm cells.
  • Energy loss: Cancer cells increase energy consumption as the new cells eat up nutrients in your body. This is why people with cancer often feel tired and lose weight.  weight loss is the most prominent sign of tumor growth. Since vitamins and minerals are crucial for sperm formation, nutrient loss may contribute to infertility.
  • Damage to testes: Cancer in the testes itself may result in destruction of the structures that produce sperm.

Impact of cancer treatment on male fertility

Various types of treatment are available for cancer, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. All three may effectively treat cancer, but they may negatively impact fertility.

Surgery

In the case of testicular cancer, surgery often results in a decline in sperm concentration and sperm count. Removal of a testicle or part of one decreases spermatogenesis and may increase the risk of infertility.

Radiation

Radiation treatment for any type of cancer can cause DNA fragmentation. This DNA damage may continue up to 2 years after the treatment. It also destroys sperm cells and may lead to oligozoospermia or azoospermia.

Chemotherapy

Medications used for chemotherapy may damage the tissue that produces sperm or the sperm cells themselves. This may result in a decreased sperm count and poor sperm motility and morphology.

How Long Do Chemotherapy Or Other Treatments Affect Sperm?

The affects of chemotherapy and radiation are variable. It depends on the drug, dose, duration, and potency of treatment. For instance, radiation at smaller doses may only cause temporary azoospermia, but at higher doses, it can lead to irreversible fertility loss.

Similarly, the rebound time is variable. After some courses of chemotherapy and radiation, spermatogenesis rebounds within a year. However, for certain drugs and higher doses of radiation, it may takes up to eight years.

Sperm Banking For Cancer Patients

Sperm freezing is a convenient method to ensure the possibility of paternity. For cancer patients, it is slightly different from normal individuals.

Take your time educating about it before making a decision.

When Should I Undergo Sperm Preservation Process?

Once radiation or chemotherapy starts, sperm quality often declines rapidly. The best time for sperm freezing is before the treatment begins.

Even before therapy begins, cancer takes a toll on spermatogenesis. To have the best chance of storing better quality sperm, you may choose to undergo sperm analysis testing. This test gives an idea about sperm quality, motility, and total count.

How Is Sperm Freezing For Cancer Patients Performed?

Traditionally, samples are obtained by masturbation, but this may be slightly challenging for cancer patients, such as people who develop cancer in childhood or the early teenage years.

For cancer patients, the following alternatives are available:

  • Electroejaculation: Electrical stimulation of the penis to achieve orgasm and collect a semen sample
  • Aspiration: Procedures like TESE allow healthcare providers to collect a sample by inserting a needle into testes and directly retrieving sperm from them

This information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Dadi Inc. makes no representation and assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained herein, and such information is subject to change without notice. You are encouraged to confirm any information obtained from or through this web site or article with other sources, and review all information regarding any medical condition or treatment with your physician.

References

  1. Dohle GR. Male infertility in cancer patients: Review of the literature. Int J Urol. 2010 Apr;17(4):327-31.
  2. Ohl D. A. (1993). Electroejaculation. The Urologic clinics of North America, 20(1), 181–188.
  3. Vakalopoulos I, Dimou P, Anagnostou I, Zeginiadou T. Impact of cancer and cancer treatment on male fertility. Hormones (Athens). 2015 Oct-Dec;14(4):579-89.
  4. Williams, Daniel H. “Sperm banking and the cancer patient.” Therapeutic advances in urology vol. 2,1 (2010): 19-34.