Cancer has become a common term
and the number of people with this deadly disease is escalating like never
before. It is not uncommon for even very young people to be affected with
cancer. While treatments for cancer, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy,
are life- saving they come with side effects.
However, young men who have
undergone these treatments for cancer have the choice of storing their sperm
before the start of treatment. This would enable them to start a family, in
case they suffer from post-treatment infertility. Besides, radiotherapy and
chemotherapy have the ability to create mutations in sperms or in testicular
tissues and limitations caused by this too can be overcomed by storing the
The sperms may be
cryopreserved-in other words they are processed and stored in canisters
containing liquid nitrogen. Sperms thus stored may be preserved for several
years. This facility comes with its own set of rules, one of which is that the
sperm donor is required to keep in touch with the fertility clinic and assess
his fertility within a year of treatment.
However, many young men do not
care to attend the follow-up appointment to evaluate their fertility as they do
not realize that it is possible for their doctors to dispose off their sperms
if ongoing fertility is not confirmed. This move is quite tragic as it leaves
the men with little hope of fathering a child.
A Cancer Research UK -funded
study was carried out on 499 male cancer survivors, between the ages of 18-55
years, who cryopreserved their sperms in sperm banks at Sheffield and
The scientists found that greater
than one third of men who chose to freeze their sperm prior to cancer treatment
did not attend a single fertility- assessing follow-up appointment. Another one
third attended just one session of the follow-up.
Experts believe that there is a
need to educate the men about the possibility of reduced fertility and about
the benefits of fertility reassessment once the treatment is over. Most men do
not contact clinics for monitoring, although they have been told to do so by
the clinic for their own personal and legal reasons. Some believe that the
clinics must take the responsibility of notifying the men and reminding them to
do the needful. This is not possible in most cases due to lack of manpower.
Thankfully, the majority of men diagnosed with
cancer would have completed their families prior to the diagnosis. But, with
those men who haven't fathered children at the time of cancer diagnosis, and
who are serious about having their own families, the possibility of reduced
fertility must be properly discussed.