Parents of children who are diagnosed with cancer have many difficult decisions to make while under severe emotional duress. Many of them are concerned about their child becoming infertile from cancer treatment. The risk of infertility depends on the child’s age, treatment type and treatment duration. Most boys have sperm present in their semen by the age of 13. Therefore, teen boys 13 years and older can preserve their fertility through sperm freezing.
In the past, men who produced ejaculate with no viable sperm or who could not produce ejaculate at all were considered sterile. Advancing techniques such as testicular sperm extraction (TESE) and testicular sperm aspiration (TESA) provide hope and biological offspring to men by locating and removing even just a few sperm located in the tissue or in the testicular fluid. If the procedure is successful, an embryologist uses a technique called intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection to fertilize the egg. In this case, a single sperm is directly injected into the egg for fertilization.
An Italian research team led by Elisa Vellani of the European Hospital in Rome recently published a study in the journal Fertility and Sterility illustrating a cause and effect relationship between higher stress and anxiety levels and lower sperm concentration and counts. According to the study, the more stressed men were also more prone to DNA breaks than their less stressed counterparts.
Answer: Dr. Charles Sims, CEO and Medical Director California Cryobank
Frozen human cells processed and stored at cryogenic temperatures in liquid nitrogen can be stored indefinitely. This technology dates back to 1948. There was a report a few years ago about sperm stored for 28 years was thawed and inseminated resulting in a healthy child.
Oncofertility is an emerging field of medicine that bridges the gap between oncology and reproductive medicine. Cancer treatments like chemotherapy, surgery and radiation can cause permanent damage to the endocrine system causing infertility. Specialists in urology and reproductive medicine are emerging who work with cancer patients to ensure they have a future as a biological parent by storing their sperm, oocytes, embryos or ovarian tissue.
California Cryobank (CCB) has more than 35 years’ experience cryopreserving sperm. Through its Fertile-Future program, individuals facing medical treatments or career risks often elect to bank sperm to ensure their future as a biological parent. From military personnel to cancer patients, CCB houses tens of thousands of vials of stored sperm for clients for one unifying purpose: hope for future parenthood.
Oncologists have much to discuss with their patients when someone is newly diagnosed with cancer. They are often facing patients who are overwhelmed and scared. They might be facing parents of children or teens with a myriad of questions and concerns.
How and when should an oncologist let the patient know about infertility risk associated with their cancer treatment?
Many California Cryobank clients are surprised to learn they ideally would abstain from ejaculation for two - four days to ensure both the highest semen volume and highest amount of motile sperm is collected prior to cryopreserving their sperm. This isn’t always possible and we encourage clients to visit one of our branches for a collection and semen analysis anyway. In today’s world of assisted reproductive technologies, even a couple of vials of quality sperm rather than quantity could result in a future child.