Sperm Quality and Chemotherapy

A study published by the Annals of Oncology concluded that men who have received one course of chemotherapy for early stage testicular cancer are unlikely to see a detrimental effect on their sperm count and quality.

Several previous studies found that men with more advanced testicular cancer who have undergone more than one treatment of chemotherapy or radiotherapy are likely to see sharp reductions in sperm count and quality. Accordingly, this new study is good news for men who are in stage one of the illness and have concerns about male fertility and sperm quality.

One of the study’s authors, Kristina Weibring, MD, of the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, says that the study is the first of its kind. The researchers focused on patients who underwent one course of chemotherapy after having surgery to remove a tumorous testicle.

The study involved nearly 200 men between the ages of 18 and 50 and took place over a multi-year period. Each participant had undergone an orchiectomy within no more than five years of the beginning of the study. After the surgery, the patients were subjected to either radiotherapy or chemotherapy treatments. Then, they were asked to provide semen samples at various interludes.

Radiotherapy is rarely used in Sweden now because of the risks involved. This treatment also appears to have had more of a detrimental effect on sperm count, even years after the radiotherapy treatments are concluded. The findings were much different for the men who underwent chemotherapy.

Many men who are diagnosed with the earliest stages of testicular cancer are quite young and therefore concerned about fertility preservation. This study provides encouraging evidence that their opportunities to father children will not necessarily be curtailed after undergoing surgery and one round of chemotherapy.

Sperm count and quality are important factors when evaluating male fertility. However, many other factors may affect a couple’s ability to have children. Still, many men may be encouraged by the news that a diagnosis with testicular cancer will not necessarily prevent them from fathering children. According to Austin male fertility specialist Dr. Parviz Kavoussi, “Although the safe answer is always to consider cryopreserving sperm prior to chemotherapy for fertility preservation, this study gives hope that perhaps in these circumstances, it may only be needed as an insurance policy until it is proven that sperm production is maintained after the treatment.”