July 19, 2005

Testicular cancer patients can have children

By Patricia Reaney

LONDON (Reuters) - Most testicular cancer patients who try
to father children after completing their treatment succeed,
scientists said Tuesday.

Men who have surgery to remove the tumour have the least
problems but even patients who have radiotherapy and
chemotherapy are able to have children.

"The vast majority of men, after testicular cancer
treatment, can go on and have a family as normal," said Dr
Robert Huddart of The Institute of Cancer Research in London.

But he added that there is a portion of patients,
regardless of what treatment they have had, who will have
difficulty having children because the illness and low
fertility are associated.

Cases of the cancer, which affects mostly men in their late
20s and early 30s, have risen rapidly in recent decades. In
some countries it is the most common cancer among young men.
About 50,000 new cases are reported worldwide each year.

Huddart and his colleagues studied 700 patients who had
been treated for the disease between 1982-1992 and asked them
to complete a questionnaire about their health and fertility.
Their findings are published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Of the 200 patients who admitted they were trying to have a
child, 77 percent were successful. An additional 10 percent
fathered children through fertility treatment.

Men who had surgery and no follow-up treatment had an 85
percent success rate, followed by 82 percent for patients
following radiotherapy and 71 percent after chemotherapy.

For patients who had both chemotherapy and radiotherapy the
fertility rate dropped to 67 percent.

Despite the promising results, Huddart said men who want
children should bank their sperm before having treatment.

"We would always advise men to bank their sperm before
chemotherapy even though we would expect most of them to
recover their fertility," Huddart said.

"Overall, it was under 5 percent of the men who wanted to
have a family who needed that sort of support."


If the disease is diagnosed and treated early, survival
rates are very good. Six-time Tour de France winner Lance
Armstrong suffered from the illness.

Denmark, Switzerland and Norway have among the highest
rates of testicular cancer in the world. The disease is common
is some families so researchers know there is a genetic
component to the illness which accounts for about 20 percent of

Doctors also suspect that environmental factors and
exposure to higher levels of the female hormone oestrogen in
the womb are contributing factors to the increase in the

The researchers suggested men's testosterone levels should
be monitored because men with low levels tend to be less
sexually active.

"We need to be alert for the men who have low testosterone
because those men may be having a lower quality of life,"
Huddart explained.

Early symptoms of the illness include a lump or sore on the
testicles, pain or soreness, a persistent cough, blood in the
urine and stomach or bowel problems.