Fertility testing for men
After treatment you might want to have tests to see if it has had any effect on your fertility.
You can ask your cancer doctor or GP to send you for a fertility test (semen analysis). This will be at a local laboratory. Your doctor then usually refers you to an NHS fertility specialist to discuss the results. These tests are free.
If you’ve had your sperm frozen and stored in a sperm bank, you can ask to have this tested. You can also ask a private fertility clinic to do this. The sperm bank or private fertility clinic may charge you for the test.
What does the test involve?
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You produce a sample by masturbating (wanking) into a small container. You will probably be asked to do this in a private room close to the laboratory. This means the sample can be analysed quickly, making the results more accurate.
You might be nervous about doing this, especially in a strange place. The staff at the clinic will be very understanding and will try their best to put you at ease.
You may be allowed to produce the sample at home and take it into the laboratory within an hour. If you do this, you need to keep the sample warm until you get there, for example in a pocket.
How accurate is the test?
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No laboratory test is 100% accurate. The test should be able to check whether you are producing sperm. If sperm are being produced, the test also checks how many there are, how well they can move, and their shape and size. This gives the doctor an idea of how likely it is that you could make a woman pregnant, and whether you’re likely to need fertility treatment.
If the test shows normal sperm production
If the test shows that you are producing sperm at normal levels, you’ll need to use contraception if you’re not trying to have a baby.
You can repeat the test every year to make sure the result hasn’t changed.
If you have normal results over several years, you may want to think about whether you still need any frozen samples you have in storage. Your doctor may discuss this with you. You can also talk about it with the counsellor in the clinic. There should be no pressure to get rid of samples if you want to keep them.
If the test shows below-normal sperm production
If the test shows that your sperm production is below normal levels, there is still a possibility you can become a father. So it’s important to use contraception if you are not trying to have a baby.
You’ll be advised to wait at least three months before having another test to see whether the situation has changed.
If the test shows no sperm production
If no sperm are seen in the sample, it might be useful to have the test repeated again later. If you’re not trying to become a father right now, it might be reasonable to have a test every year. If you want to become a father, you may decide to have the test done more often. It can take up to three months for the testicles to make sperm, so most doctors advise you to wait at least three months between tests.
Even if you’ve been told that you’re not producing any sperm, you should use contraception if you are not trying to have a baby, as sperm production can start again at any time.
Your fertility doctor may ask you for a second sample. This is to check the result of the first test. The doctor may also ask you to have other tests (usually blood tests) if you want to try to have a baby.