Men and adolescents who are undergoing medical treatments that might negatively affect their future fertility may want to consider sperm cryopreservation. Although such measures have been available since at least the 1970s, these options tend to be underutilized by men who are faced with gonadotoxic treatment.
Gonadotoxic treatment generally refers to any medical procedures that are likely to interfere with male fertility. Most of these procedures are related to the treatment of cancer. Testicular cancer, leukemia, bone marrow transplants and lymphomas are all examples of conditions the treatment of which may impair fertility later in life. Other cancers and non-cancer illnesses further may have similar effects.
A study examined the success of sperm cryopreservation for men and adolescents undergoing gonadotoxic treatment. Researchers focused on the experience of practitioners and patients at the Andrology Department of the Concord Repatriation General Hospital in Sydney, New South Wales. Sperm cryostorage became available to patients at this hospital in 1978, and researchers looked at the medical records of 2,717 patients beginning in 1978 and continuing through 2017.
The findings indicated that sperm was collected from the majority of adult and adolescent patients. Sperm output for patients who underwent some form gonadotoxic treatment was lower than output for control participants who had not received such treatment. Privacy rules prohibited the researchers from determining whether or not any of the cryopreserved samples had been used to induce pregnancy.
Dr. Luke Machen, reproductive urologist at Austin Fertility & Reproductive Medicine notes, “Sperm cryopreservation is a crucial service that should be offered to all men of reproductive age undergoing any sort of treatment that could be potentially harmful to their future fertility – including chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery.” With proper collection and preservation techniques, many more men may be able to father children long after receiving treatment.”
While the discussion of sperm cryopreservation has improved over the years between medical providers and patients, there is still a long way to go to better inform patients of its availability prior to gonadotoxic treatment. Dr. Machen adds, “Many patients are understandably worried about the effects of treatment on their fertility, and there are well documented psychological benefits to storing sperm for these men.”
Men are encouraged to speak to their doctor regarding whether or not any medical treatments that they are considering may affect their future fertility or the quality or viability of their sperm. A consultation with a reproductive urologist will provide further enlightenment with regard to fertility preservation and the additional treatment options that may be available to them.