Testicular Cancer & Fertility Preservation
Fertility Preservation Solutions for Chemotherapy, Radiation & Testicular Surgery
For those diagnosed with testicular cancer it is important to explore your fertility preservation options. We encourage all patients to freeze their sperm prior to radiation, chemotherapy or surgery. Frozen sperm can be successfully cryopreserved for many years to come – and it’s much more affordable than you might think. We have a ‘no cancer patient turned away’ policy for individuals that cannot afford cryopreservation. Learn more about testicular cancer and infertility:
Defining Testicular Cancer
Testicular cancer is a malignant tumor that starts in the testicles of the male reproductive tract. Testicular cancer can be caused by environmental factors, such as exposure to certain chemicals, as well as hereditary and developmental factors, such as history of undescended testicles. Although testicular cancer is a serious health condition, it is rarely fatal when treated promptly.
Testicular Cancer Signs & Symptoms
Common symptoms of testicular cancer include pain and discomfort in the testicle, an enlarged testicle, pain in the lower abdomen, or lump in the testicle. However, testicular cancer may also be symptom-free. A common indicator of testicular cancer is finding a lump or a mass in one testicle during a physical examination. When a flashlight is pointed at the lump, the light does not pass through the mass.
Testicular Cancer Treatments: Can They Cause Infertility?
Testicular cancer is typically treated with a surgical removal of the tumor and/or testicle, in combination with radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Although these treatment methods are effective in treating cancer they can also affect your fertility.
Radiation therapy targets rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells, and is applied with a high-dosage of high-energy rays, such as x-rays, directly toward the tumor and testicle. However, sperm cells also divide rapidly, making them vulnerable to the effects of radiation. Radiation therapy typically stops or reduces sperm production temporarily. Reduced sperm count or lack of sperm production can last as long as couple years, before returning to normal levels. For some men, radiation therapy can destroy the ability to produce sperm completely. Fertility preservation is an important option to consider before undergoing radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy is a treatment which uses specific drugs that targets and kills cancer cells. Similar to radiation therapy, chemotherapy drugs also target rapidly dividing sperm cells, causing temporary infertility. However, sometimes chemotherapy can cause permanent infertility, especially if you received high doses of chemotherapy drugs. Consider your fertility preservation options before starting chemotherapy treatments.
Surgical removal of one or both testicles can also cause infertility. If both testicles are removed, you will become infertile. However, if only one testicle is removed and you can still produce viable sperm with the other testicle, you can remain fertile. In some cases, surgical removal of a testicle is accompanied by a removal of the nearby lymph nodes. Removal of these lymph nodes can lead to a condition called retrograde ejaculation, in which no semen is released during ejaculation. Although you are producing viable sperm, retrograde ejaculation can lead to infertility because no sperm is delivered to the egg. Fertility preservation is an important consideration before receiving surgical treatment.
Fertility Preservation Options
Due to the risk of infertility following a testicular cancer treatment, there are steps you can take to preserve your sperm for the future.
Sperm banking, or cyropreservation of sperm, is a simple method that allows you to store your viable sperm for decades. The sperm can be used at a future date to fertilize your partner’s egg with a procedure called in vitro fertilization (IVF). Sperm banking involves collecting a specimen into a sterile container and freezing the sample in several smaller aliquots.
Testicular Tissue Freezing
Another option to preserve your sperm is to collect a small fraction of your testicular tissue and freeze it for future sperm retrieval. Testicular tissue is retrieved with a simple surgical procedure that involves a small incision, and a collection of tiny piece of testicular tissue for freezing. This option is used mostly for young males diagnosed with testicular cancer before reaching puberty.
Testicular Cancer Resources
Association of Cancer Online Resources
Online support site offering information about treatment options, clinical trials and publications.