Monday, February 16, 2009

Help me – I want to be a father !

I recently received a heartbreaking email from a young man.

My medical history is as follows. I have been treated for testicular cancer in 2003 and one of my testicles is removed with a surgery. Before and after the surgery I have undergone 4 cycles each of chemotherapy. Every 6 months I get the blood tests done and everything seems to be normal for me. Last year April I have undergone testicular biopsy and it resulted in azoospermia. Last month I got the FSH blood tests done and it came out as 23.51.I have consulted many doctors and as my FSH is high one of the doctor has referred us to sperm donor program. Is this my only option ? Is there any way I can have a baby with my own sperm ?

Unfortunately, this man now has complete testicular failure; and his sperm production has been wiped out as a result of the cancer chemotherapy. Ideally, his sperm should have been banked ( cryopreserved in a sperm bank) prior to his starting chemotherapy. Unfortunately, this was not done, as a result of which his only options now are adoption; donor insemination; or child-free living. His ignorance - and the fact that his oncologist and surgeon did not bother to discuss his future reproductive options wiht him) have proven to be very expensive for him.

There is no doubt that cancer can be a life-threatening illness , but the good news is that many young patients are now surviving their disease and its treatment because of recent medical advances. They have their whole lives ahead of them - and having babies is one of the things most young people look forward to doing. Unfortunately, without enough information, they are not aware of the impact of the chemotherapy and radiation on their testicular function; and when they find out they cannot have a baby, will often resent the fact that their doctor did not discuss their treatment options with them at the time the diagnosis was made.

Oncologists are so focussed on saving lives and managing cancer, that they often fail to discuss reproduction with their patients - and the fact that sperm can be safely and easily banked prior to treatment. This failure causes major heartburn in their patients later on !

This man's story is so different from Lance Armstrong, who banked his sperm prior to taking treatment for his cancer. He used his stored sperm to have his children, after conquering his disease. Lance is doing great work in empowering young cancer patients with information about what they can do to preserve their fertility - I just wish more doctors would do so too !

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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous6:04 AM

    Yah, I had testicular cancer, I banked before radiation.

    I relapsed. I banked some more before chemotherapy, my sperm had recovered from radiation after 2+ years, but better safe than sorry before chemotherapy.


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