Most teenage boys with cancer can bank sperm

NEW YORK — Sperm banking is possible for most teens with cancer who must undergo fertility-impairing treatment, British researchers report.

Several types of chemotherapy can damage the sperm-producing portion of the testes, while radiation of the testicular area can also lead to infertility, For this reason, infertility is very common among male survivors of childhood cancer.

Freezing sperm obtained by masturbation is the most widely available method for fertility preservation, and patients as young as 13 are capable of producing semen samples with normal sperm counts, report Dr. Guy Makin of the University of Manchester and colleagues in the journal, Archives of Disease in Childhood.

A 2002 study found 77 percent of childless male cancer patients aged 14 to 40 said they would like to father children in the future, they note. But the same investigation found just half of these patients had been given the option of banking sperm, and less than a quarter had done so successfully.

To investigate what obstacles exist to sperm banking among these patients, the researchers surveyed 55 males aged 13 to 21 at their cancer diagnosis who had undergone potentially infertility-producing treatment and had been offered the option of banking their sperm.

Of the forty-five who completed the questionnaire, 67 percent had banked their sperm successfully. Three of the 15 who did not bank their sperm were too sick to do so, while one patient had not reached puberty.

The remaining men who were unable to obtain a sperm sample were younger than the men who succeeded in doing so (15.3 years vs. 17.8 years). They also showed higher levels of anxiety, more difficulty in discussing fertility, and tended to be less knowledgeable about sperm banking.

The findings suggest that giving these patients better-quality information on sperm banking, as well as training medical professionals to discuss this issue with patients, could help more young patients bank their sperm, the researchers conclude.

SOURCE: Archives of Diseases in Childhood, February 2006.

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