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Being told you have cancer and that treatment may affect your fertility can be very difficult.
Your fertility may not be uppermost in your mind – getting rid of the cancer is often the priority. But some men may find the threat of losing their fertility as difficult to accept as the diagnosis of cancer.
We have more detailed information in our section on cancer and fertility for men|, which you may find helpful.
Even if your chances of becoming infertile are low your doctor will usually advise you to store 2–3 samples of your sperm before your treatment starts. Treatment could damage your sperm and make it unsuitable for use in the future.
Sometimes treatment needs to start immediately or occasionally men may be too unwell to produce a sample. But there are now newer techniques that can help in these situations.
You will have counselling at the fertility clinic before you have sperm banking. You’ll also have to sign a consent form that states how your sperm is to be used. Blood tests will be taken to check whether you have any diseases or infections, such as HIV or hepatitis.
Sperm banking is a safe technique that’s been successfully used for many years. Samples of your sperm are frozen and if you and your partner want to have a child later in your lives, these can be thawed and used with fertility treatments. Sperm samples can be kept frozen until you’re 55.
The NHS often pays for sperm banking for men with cancer, but in some hospitals you may have to pay for it yourself.
Even if you aren’t producing many sperm, or your treatment started quickly and you couldn’t provide all the samples, your sperm can still be stored. A fertility treatment called ICSI (intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection), which only needs a single sperm to fertilise an egg, is now often used.
It’s also now possible to collect sperm by extracting a piece of testicular tissue or fluid. This can be done using a local or general anaesthetic. Small amounts of testicular fluid or tissue are removed by inserting a fine needle into the testicle or by making a small cut in the scrotum. The fluid or tissue is examined for sperm in the laboratory. The sperm is then removed and stored for future use. Your doctor or nurse at the fertility clinic can give you more information.
Content last reviewed: 1 May 2010
Next planned review: 2013
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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