Cancer treatments not only affect the targeted cancer cells but can also affect other cells in the body. Its long-term effects are many and differ according to gender, age, etc. These treatments typically include chemotherapy and radiation that could also give rise to infertility1. Men with cancer, who wish to have children in future, should consider preserving their sperm before undergoing cancer therapies. 

Today, we’ll take a look at how varied cancer treatments can cause fertility issues and what resolutions can be taken to address it. As this blog is dedicated to sperm banking for cancer patients, therefore we’ll only be discussing infertility occuring in male patients. 

Medications may or may not directly affect a person's fertility. However, the variables that can cause infertility stay constant, like1:

  • Baseline fertility: Reproductive health before the patient had cancer treatment
  • Age: Age of the patient at the time of cancer treatment
  • Cancer diagnosis: Type of cancer a patient has, and what therapies they’re taking
  • Treatment duration: Total period of the relevant therapy
  • Post cancer period: Amount of time that has been passed since the treatment
  • Other underlying health issues: Apart from cancer, a patient’s fertility could also get affected due to some other medical condition

What Cancer Treatments Can Affect Fertility In Men? 

The answer is simple. Consider your body to be a machine made up of glands and organs that are equivalent to the parts of a machine. When cancer attacks one of your body's organs or glands, the therapy may cure the cancer, but it may disrupt the rest of the machine, i.e., your body.

Same is the case with fertility, when cancer treatments are in motion, they could impact the reproductive glands or organs, thereby, resulting in infertility1.

Below mentioned are some of the cancer treatments that could impact fertility in patients:

1. Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a medicine based treatment  of cancer wherein the chemicals are used to stop the development of fast growing cells2. The use of these medications often damage the sperm as well as germ cells (sperm forming cells)1,3.

2. Hormone Therapy

Some cancers are dependent on hormones for growth. In such cases, hormone therapy is done, which involves 2 procedures. One involves obstruction or blocking of hormones so that cancer growth stops or declines4. On the other hand, the second procedure interferes with the human body’s interaction with hormones, and therefore, there are chances of cancer growth getting hindered5.

To sum it up, if a certain cancer type requires endocrine (hormonal) therapy, then there are chances sperm production depleting1.

3. Radiation Therapy

This therapy uses high intensity radiation to either terminate cancer cells or decrease the size of tumor5. If radiation therapy is targeted on reproductive organs or even around the abdomen (at pelvis, spine, etc.), it can decrease the sperm count. Moreover, it may also cause testosterone levels to decline, leading to infertility1.

4. Surgery 

This treatment requires surgical removal of the cancerous tumor from the patient’s body6. Although not all surgeries are high risk, but those done near or around reproductive organs and pelvic area (from where colon, bladder or prostate cancer may be removed) could possibly damage sex organs, nerves or lymph nodes1.

5. Stem Cell Transplants

Stem cell therapies involve procedures like bone marrow transplants or peripheral blood stem cells transplants. These transplants often help the patients in restoring their regenerative cells that aid in blood cell formation1. But these transplant procedures come with high doses of chemotherapy or high intensity radiation, which damages the sperms (and sperm forming cells)1.

Ways To Preserve Fertility

Cancer-induced infertility may be a cause of distress to a patient. However, by taking proper measures and care, the fertility of an individual can be preserved. It is, therefore, advisable to have discussions with an oncologist about your reproductive future prior to undergoing cancer therapies. 

We’ll now discuss about sperm banking for cancer patients and other ways of safeguarding fertility of men with cancer-

  • Testicular Shielding

Testicular shielding is often called gonadal shielding, as this method involves covering of the testicles when radiation is done1

  • Testicular Sperm Extraction

This procedure is for post cancer treatment, in cases when the patient is not able to produce semen. The sperm is then extracted via medical procedure1

  • Testicular Tissue Freezing

It is a procedure for pre-pubescent patients. In this procedure, the testicular tissue is preserved using cryopreservation1

  • Sperm Banking

More commonly known as “sperm storage”, it is probably the most commonly used procedure for preserving the fertility of male cancer patients. 

Let’s take a look at how sperm banking for cancer patients works. When someone opts for this  procedure such as LifeCell’s SpermVault, a semen analysis is done. It’s done to make sure  that the semen is healthy, viable and fit for preservation, for future use.

Semen analysis is a test wherein the ejaculate (ejected semen from the penis/ male sex organ) is assessed on certain parameters as recommended by WHO7. They are as follows8

  1. Total amount of semen ejaculated
  2. Number of total sperm per milliliter 
  3. Motility of the sperm 
  4. Shape of the sperm 

After the semen analysis, the semen sample is taken for the sperm cryopreservation process. 

LifeCell’s SpermVault checks vital parameters related to sperm health so that the best  is preserved and you can be rest assured of using them in future. Let’s take a look at how it’s done.

How LifeCell Stores Sperm?

SpermVault preserves the sperm in a world-class state-of-the-art cryopreservation facility until you are ready to embrace parenthood. This process consists of collecting, analyzing, freezing, and storing sperm at low temperatures of -196°C to −150°C in liquid nitrogen9

Ending Note!

Cancer may rob you of your health and overall wellbeing, but it cannot take away your dream of becoming a father! If you or your partner have recently been suggested with a cancer treatment that may pose a fertility risk, you may want to consider LifeCell's SpermScore & SpermVault services.

So, what are you waiting for? Check out SpermVault now and explore our flexible storage options and plan for a fertile future!

References

  1. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/fertility-men  
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/chemotherapy/about/pac-20385033  
  3. https://training.seer.cancer.gov/treatment/chemotherapy/types.html#:~:text=Alkylating%20agents%20were%20among%20the,preventing%20the%20cell%20from%20dividing.  
  4. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/types/hormone-therapy  
  5. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/types/radiation-therapy  
  6. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/types/surgery  
  7. https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240030787  
  8. https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/semen-analysis/#:~:text=A%20semen%20analysis%2C%20also%20called,man%20that%20carry%20genetic%20material.  
  9. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/sperm-banking#:~:text=Sperm%20banking%20is%20the%20process,in%20vitro%20fertilization%20(IVF).  

References