Preserving the Future:
Sperm banking offers fertility protection for men facing cancer treatment, con't.
Q. Will treatment be delayed
by sperm banking?
In some cases, yes, but only by a few
days. Your doctor will advise you whether
it's safe to proceed with sperm banking.
In most cases, it is.
Chemotherapy Fertility Risks
Chemotherapy can damage the cells
in the body that make sperm. The type
of chemotherapy drugs most likely to
damage these cells are part of a class
called alkylating drugs. The higher
the dose of a chemotherapy drug-or
combination of drugs-the more likely
fertility is to be impaired. Drugs linked
to infertility include:
- Carmustine (BCNU)
- Lomustine (CCNU)
- Nitrogen mustard
Q. How does it work?
Sperm is collected through masturbation.
The U-M Center for Reproductive
Medicine will analyze and freeze the
sample. A small portion will be thawed to
determine the number and viability of the
sperm after freezing and thawing. As many as half of the sperm in a sample may not
survive the process, so the lab will take that
into account when determining the ideal
number of samples required to optimize
the chances of reproduction in the future.
Q. How many visits does it
On average, our patients usually need
to produce three samples to ensure an
adequate number of sperm for future use.
However, some men will produce samples
with higher numbers of viable sperm,
which means fewer visits to the lab will
be needed. Other men may only be able
to produce one sample, due to their treatment
schedule or health. With the help
of assisted reproductive technologies,
pregnancies are possible with very small
numbers of sperm.
Q. What if a patient isn't
comfortable discussing masturbation?
We completely understand that this can
be an embarrassing topic to discuss. But
sperm banking is an important medical
concern that has life-altering impact. Our
goal is to help male patients have children
in the future. We treat all of our patients
with absolute professionalism, and we try
to make an awkward situation as comfortable
Q. Can patients bring in
samples from home?
Yes, our lab provides approved containers
that patients may use at home to collect
a sample. The sample must arrive at the
clinic within one hour of ejaculation.
Patients may also use a private, locked
room at U-M's Briarwood Center for
Q. How much does it cost?
The cost for men who produce three
samples is about $1,000. The Cancer
Center is a partner in the Sharing Hope
Program for Men, which offers financial
assistance to families who earn less than
$75,000 or individuals who earn less than
Q: You mentioned that very few
men who are eligible decide to
bank their sperm. Why?
For many, it's just too embarrassing to
talk about masturbation -- or they may have
social or religious objections. Sometimes,
the health-care team does not inform the
patient. But I think the most common
reason is that patients are simply overwhelmed.
They are trying to cope with a
tremendous amount of information related
directly to their cancer diagnosis, and
throwing infertility into the mix is just too
much. But unfortunately, fertility is
something that has to be considered up
front, because sperm banking isn't always
an option after treatment begins. We aim
to help our patients overcome obstacles to
maintaining their fertility in the future.
Many men may be able to conceive naturally
after treatment, but for those who do
become infertile, sperm banking is their
Learn more by watching "Preparing for the Future,"
a seven part video series.
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