Male cancer patients are missing out on appropriate fertility advice, according to pioneering research presented at the Fertility 2013 conference recently.
Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy can create a risk of long-term infertility, and sperm banking prior to treatment is recommended for all men diagnosed with cancer.
It appears that the breakdown in advice is occurring with the arrangement of follow-up appointments. Men need to assess their fertility in the years after they have been discharged from cancer treatment, as infertility can be permanent or temporary depending on the individual’s level of treatment and circumstances.
Sperm samples should be disposed of after 10 years if ongoing fertility cannot be confirmed, according to current sperm banking regulations. Therefore the follow-up appointments are critical for patients to receive the appropriate fertility advice.
Questionnaires were sent to 499 male cancer survivors aged between 18 and 55, by Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in Andrology, and Professor Christine Eiser, professor in Psychology, at the University of Sheffield. All the patients had undergone cancer treatment more than five years ago and had banked sperm in either Sheffield or Nottingham.
Cancer Research UK funded the research, which showed that over a third of the 193 responses (36%) had never attended a follow-up meeting to assess their fertility, with only one appointment being attended by a further third (33%).
Dr Allan Pacey acknowledged that trying to engage men with this subject is notoriously difficult. He commented “For those of us who run sperm banks, many men store their sperm and then do not contact us again, even though there are legal reasons to keep in contact.
“Our research suggests that there is a need to educate men about the benefits of attending follow-up fertility clinics and the long-term consequences of non-attendance.”