Storing sperm

Most men are still able to father a child after testicular cancer treatment. However, treatment can affect some men’s fertility. This may depend on the type and amount of treatment needed. Your specialist will be able to give you more information about this.

Being told you have cancer and that treatment may affect your fertility can be very difficult. Your fertility may not be the most important thing to you – getting rid of the cancer is often the priority. But some men may find that the threat of losing their fertility is as difficult to accept as the diagnosis of cancer.

Even if your chances of becoming infertile are low, your doctor will usually advise you to store 2–3 samples of your sperm. Sperm storage usually happens after you’ve had an orchidectomy but before you have further treatment. This is because this treatment could damage your sperm. Occasionally, some men may be offered sperm storage before an orchidectomy if they have fertility problems or their unaffected testicle is small.

You’ll 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 are taken as well, to check whether you have any abnormalities or infections, such as HIV or hepatitis.

Sperm banking is a safe technique that’s been successfully used for many years. It involves freezing. If you want to have a child later in your life, your sperm 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.

For some men, treatment needs to start immediately and there’s no time to take sperm samples. If your doctor feels that your treatment needs to start straight away they will discuss this with you.

We have more detailed information about cancer treatment and fertility in men.

Newer fertility techniques

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) is now often used. This only needs a single sperm to fertilise an egg.

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.

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The stage of a cancer describes its size and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.

Treatment overview

After surgery to remove the testicle (orchidectomy) your treatment will depend on the stage and type of testicular cancer you have.