Fertility preservation options – for males

This page explains some of the fertility preservation options available to you before you start treatment.

 

Find out your risk

Your doctor of another member of your treatment team should tell you about any risks to your future fertility when they discuss your treatment options with you. If they haven’t yet, tell them you want to know.

Below is a list of questions you might ask:

  • What are the risks of infertility with my treatment plan?
  • What can I do to preserve my fertility?
  • How much time do I have before I start treatment?
  • What can I do during treatment to protect my fertility?
  • Who do I need to talk to about my fertility options?
  • Can you refer me to a fertility clinic?
  • How do I know if I will be fertile after treatment?

 

Fertility preservation options

This page has information about commonly-used interventions to preserve fertility for males having cancer treatment. These are:

  • Sperm freezing
  • Radiation shielding

These options may not be available or right for you. You need to talk to your doctor about what is appropriate.

 

Sperm freezing

Sperm freezing involves making a sperm deposit and then having it frozen.

You generally go to a clinic (called an andrology clinic), which could be part of the hospital or a separate IVF/fertility clinic. If you are well enough, you may be able to do this at home.

You will be told step-by-step what to do by the staff there, and given as much time as you need. This can be a bit of an embarrassing or awkward situation for a lot of people (especially if you have to be taken there by your parents), but the doctors and nurses do this every day and will try to make you feel as comfortable as possible.

What usually happens:

  • You will need to masturbate (you may know this as ‘wanking’, ‘jerking off’ or ‘jacking off’) to ejaculate samples of your sperm, collected in a jar.
  • You will probably be asked to give a couple of samples, generally three, but not all in one go. The reason for this is because your sperm might not be high quality because of the cancer.
  • If time allows, you may be asked to wait 2 to 3 days between each collection to give the sperm time to build up again. This might not be possible though depending on your treatment protocol and how fast your doctor needs to start treatment.
  • Once you have a sample, the sperm will be frozen. It is then clearly labelled with your details and stored in a large tank of liquid nitrogen. The storage tanks are not run on electricity or through machines but work like thermos flasks.

 

Radiation shielding

If your testes are close to where the radiation is directed (but they are not the target), then they can be shielded from the radiation beams by using protective coverings.

This does not guarantee that the radiation will not affect your testes, but it does provide some level of protection. Your doctor will probably still recommend that you bank sperm.

 

Other options

There are other options that are only used in rare instances. These involve using a needle to remove some sperm from the testes (testicular sperm extraction), usually with a light general anaesthetic.

They are only used for boys and men who are unable to produce a sperm sample by masturbation.

If you are in a relationship and find it hard to produce a masturbated specimen, you may be able to collect some sperm into a special condom during intercourse and bring it into the lab. This is NOT a normal condom, but one that is specially designed for this purpose.