According to a study published in the January issue of the urology journal BJU International, a quarter of men with testicular cancer banked their sperm before treatment, but only 6% of those actually used the sperm to father a child.
Researchers from the Vanderbilt University Medical Centre in Nashville, USA, surveyed 129 males treated at the institution over a ten-year period. They discovered that 31 of the men (24 per cent) chose to bank their sperm before treatment, at an average cost of US $358. Maintenance fees added an average of US $243.86 a year.
Despite the cost, only two of the men use their banked sperm to father a child, one said he might use it in the future and a further 12 had children naturally. Men who banked their sperm had an average age of 26 - ten years younger than those who didn't. They were less likely to have children at the time of diagnosis and more likely to have children after treatment. And single men were twice as likely to bank their sperm (44 per cent) as married men (21 per cent).
The most common reasons given for not banking sperm were that they didn't want to have children, or more children, that they or their partner were infertile or they had already had a vasectomy. 38% of all the men who took part in the survey hadn't had children at the time of diagnosis. 45% of the men who had banked their sperm had children after treatment, compared with 14 per cent of the men who hadn't banked their sperm.
"As most men treated for testicular cancer are young and the survival rate exceeds 90 per cent, the issue of after-treatment fertility is important" says lead author Christopher R Girasole.
"Revolutionary techniques such as in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection make pregnancy possible with even the lowest quality of sperm.
"However, up to a quarter of men don't produce usable sperm after treatment.
"These factors probably explain why most urologists, radiation oncologists and medical oncologists offer sperm banking before therapy for testicular cancer.
"However, our survey shows that sperm banking costs are relatively high and usage is relatively low. We feel that patients should be counseled on both the costs and benefits of sperm banking before they receive treatment for testicular cancer."
The males who took part in the survey ranged from 14 to 76 years of age. The youngest man to bank his sperm was 18 and the oldest was 43.