A Guide to Preserving Fertility During Treatment
When someone is diagnosed with cancer, their first thought is usually about fighting the disease and getting better. However, cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation can have a major impact on fertility, leaving many cancer patients worried about their ability to have children in the future. Fortunately, there are options for preserving fertility, including sperm preservation for men. This guide will provide an overview of the sperm preservation process, as well as tips and resources for cancer patients considering sperm preservation.
Understanding Sperm Preservation
Sperm preservation, also known as sperm cryopreservation, is a method of freezing and storing sperm for later use. There are several reasons why someone might choose to preserve their sperm, including:
- Cancer treatment: As mentioned, chemotherapy and radiation can damage sperm, making it difficult or impossible to conceive naturally.
- Sterilization: Some medical procedures like a vasectomy or testicular cancer treatment can make a man sterile.
- Military deployment: Some men choose to preserve their sperm before being deployed, in case they are injured or killed in combat.
- Transgender men: Transgender men who plan to undergo hormone therapy or surgery that may impact their fertility may choose to preserve their sperm.
The process of sperm preservation involves collecting semen samples and freezing them in liquid nitrogen. There are a few different methods for collecting semen, including masturbation or using a special condom during intercourse. Once the sperm is collected, it is processed and frozen in a laboratory. Sperm can be stored for many years, and the success rates for using frozen sperm in assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) like in vitro fertilization (IVF) are high.
Preparing for Sperm Preservation
If you are considering sperm preservation, there are a few things you should do to prepare. First, it’s important to start the process as early as possible, ideally before cancer treatment begins. This allows for multiple collections if necessary and ensures that the sperm is of the highest quality possible. You should also choose a reputable sperm bank that follows FDA guidelines for sperm donation and storage. The cost of sperm preservation can be a concern for many cancer patients, but some insurance plans may cover the cost. It’s important to talk to your doctor and sperm bank about financial assistance options.
Before sperm preservation, you will need to undergo testing to ensure that your sperm is healthy and suitable for freezing. This includes a semen analysis to assess the quantity and quality of your sperm, as well as screening for infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis B and C.
The Process of Sperm Preservation
The process of sperm preservation typically involves several steps. First, you will need to collect a semen sample either by masturbation or using a special condom during intercourse. The sample is then processed in a laboratory to separate the sperm from other fluids and debris. This helps ensure that the sperm is of the highest quality possible before freezing.
Once the sperm is prepared, it is frozen in liquid nitrogen at a temperature of -196°C. The sperm can be stored for many years without losing viability. When you are ready to use the sperm, it will be thawed and prepared for use in an assisted reproductive technology (ART) like IVF.
Sperm Preservation for Cancer Patients
Cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation can damage sperm, making it difficult or impossible to conceive naturally. That’s why it’s important for cancer patients to consider sperm preservation before beginning treatment. While not all cancer treatments affect fertility, it’s important to talk to your doctor about the potential risks and options for sperm preservation.
If you are considering sperm preservation before cancer treatment, it’s important to start the process as early as possible. This allows for multiple collections if necessary and ensures that the sperm is of the highest quality possible. You may also need to undergo testing before sperm preservation to ensure that your sperm is healthy and suitable for freezing.
If you are already undergoing cancer treatment and have not yet considered sperm preservation, it may not be too late. While sperm quality may be lower during treatment, it may still be possible to preserve some viable sperm for later use.
Success Rates of Sperm Preservation
The success rates of using frozen sperm in assisted reproductive technologies like IVF are high. The success rates of natural conception after sperm preservation are also promising, with one study reporting a 36% pregnancy rate among couples using preserved sperm.
Dealing with a cancer diagnosis and the prospect of infertility can be overwhelming. It’s important to seek support and resources during this time. Your doctor may be able to refer you to a fertility specialist or counselor who can help you navigate the process of sperm preservation and address any emotional concerns you may have.
Sperm preservation is a viable option for cancer patients who want to preserve their fertility before undergoing cancer treatment. It’s important to start the process as early as possible and choose a reputable sperm bank that follows FDA guidelines for sperm donation and storage. The success rates of using frozen sperm in assisted reproductive technologies are high, and natural conception is also possible. If you are considering sperm preservation, talk to your doctor about your options and resources available to you.