Why is this an issue?
A lot of cancers can affect fertility, and if they don’t then treatments can. A lot of doctors recommend that men save their sperm quickly after they learn they have cancer just in case. Now a new program is looking to see if they can help men who did not save a sample before their battle with cancer. The Fertility-Preservation Program at Magee Women’s Hospital is looking into options for men who do not have high sperm counts after beginning treatment.
So, what is it?
The process is called spermatogonial stem-cell transplantation, and it works by taking a sample of stem cells and freezing them, then returning them to the testes. While radiation and chemotherapy do affect the stem cells before they become sperm, once they are in the testes after therapy sperm seems to function normally. Putting stem cells in helps spermatogonial stem cells become sperm.
The tests on humans started in 2011, and while researchers still have a lot of work to do, they’re confident that this new method will be able to help a lot of people.
Should I do it?
It really depends. It’s a great idea for those who definitely want children or those still on the fence, but if you’ve decided to live your life childfree, there’s no real point. Some oncologists are also worried about the necessity of the procedure–they’d rather focus on life-saving work, as if the patient isn’t alive, there’s no point to preserving their fertility. However, not all patients have fatal cancer, and sometimes the procedure can be done at the same time as a scheduled oncology surgery.
So if you think that this might be the method for you, make sure to talk to your doctor and see what they think. After all, when it comes to fertility it’s better to be safe than sorry, but it shouldn’t come at the risk of your health or life.