Men Treated for Cancer Not Offered Chance to Father Children


Many men with cancer who undergo treatment that can impact fertility are not being offered a chance to bank their sperm and thus father children, according to a new study appearing in the Annals of Oncology.

Men with cancer should bank sperm if they want children

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Warwick and University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust found that only 21 percent of nearly 500 clinicians in the United Kingdom knew of any local policies on sperm banking, and only about 50 percent said information on sperm banking was readily available to patients.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellent (NICE), however, has guidelines stating that men or adolescent boys who receive treatment that can make them infertile should be provided with an opportunity to bank their sperm. Despite NICE guidelines, only 26 percent of oncologists and 38 percent of hematologists said discussions with male cancer patients regarding banking their sperm was documented systematically.


In the United States, a survey conducted by the Cleveland Clinic Foundation about a decade ago found that only about 50 percent of cancer patients were given adequate information about post-treatment reproductive options, and that only about 25 percent of men who were eligible to bank their sperm did so.

Males can become infertile if they receive high doses of chemotherapy, such as those administered before a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, or after treatment for prostate or testicular cancer or Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Radiation, especially whole-body irradiation or radiation focused at or near a man’s testicles, can affect sperm production.

Dr. Ann Adams, a study author from Warwick Medical School, expressed concern, saying “it appears that clinicians are deciding who is offered the chance to bank sperm based on their own personal beliefs, attitudes and assumptions about their patients’ likelihood of starting a family in the future.”

A man’s choice to father children is a personal one. When the possibility to do so could be eliminated because of cancer treatment, it is important that a man’s physician make him aware of the possibility of infertility and the option of banking his sperm.

University of Warwick