Treatment of cancer may require surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or a combination all of the above. Both chemotherapy and radiotherapy damage the testis.

Options Available

1. Take No Action

The chance of irreversible sterility with cessation of sperm production varies dependant upon the disease and treatment required but with chemotherapy is about 30%. Radiotherapy is far more toxic and sterility rates are higher

For some cancers it is possible to temporarily stop the function of the testis using medical treatment. This may protect the testis to some extent and is commonly used in primary treatments of some lymphomas amongst others.

2. Freeze Mature Sperm

For adult males it is possible to store and freeze sperm samples prior to treatment. This often has to be arranged quite quickly and has to be done in a centre licensed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority. Sperm is produced by masturbation and then put in a protective fluid for freezing. If there is time before treatment more than one sample can be stored.

The samples can be stored for 10 years.

Please note that many sufferers, especially those who are unwell prior to treatment may have very poor quality sperm anyway. It is still possible to freeze sperm with very low counts as long as some are still alive.

A large number of sperm do not survive the freezing and thawing process however with modern treatments very few sperm are required.

When you wish the sperm to be used it is likely that you and your partner will need to undergo a cycle of Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). This is a variant of IVF suitable for small numbers of sperm. The female needs to undergo treatments to stimulate the ovaries and to collect eggs. Each egg is injected with a single live sperm. Around 70% of mature eggs fertilise and either 1 or 2 embryos are replaced.

^ Back to the top ^

3. Donor Sperm

This is possible if you do not have any sperm frozen or the sperm does not survive the freeze thaw process. Any child resulting from donor sperm treatment has the right to identifying information about his or her genetic father on reaching the age of 18

^ Back to the top ^


Some Primary Care Trusts will fund this treatment prior to therapy. Most will fund sperm freezing prior to treatment. There may be qualifying criteria the commonest is that you should not have existing children. You may need to check with your Primary Care Trust to see if there are any qualifying criteria (for you and/or your partner) for ICSI funding when you come to use the frozen sperm for treatment. This part of the treatment might not be funded if your partner has a child.

You always have the right of appeal

If you disagree with any of the criteria please discuss this directly with you local Primary Care Trust and not with us. We have absolutely no say in the matter. This information is put together in good faith and is as far as we believe accurate. Because criteria vary you should contact your local fertility expert who can approach the local Primary Care Trust on your behalf or contact them direct.

^ Back to the top ^