Men not attending fertility appointments after cancer treatment

In collaboration with the Press Association

More than a third of men who bank their sperm prior to cancer treatment do not attend a single follow-up appointment to assess their fertility.

Fertility can fluctuate and many men need to attend follow-up appointments to keep tabs on their fertility in the years after completing cancer treatment.

But a Cancer Research UK-funded study presented at the Fertility 2013 conference in Liverpool showed that some men are missing out on vital up-to-date fertility advice.

The research suggested that that clinics need to develop new strategies to encourage men to engage with ongoing fertility monitoring programmes.

Men diagnosed with cancers requiring treatments like chemotherapy or radiotherapy are often offered the chance to store their sperm to safeguard against the risk of post-treatment infertility.

But many men do not realise that their sperm can be disposed of after a decade if doctors cannot confirm ongoing infertility - a fact that could leave them unable to father children in the future.

The research carried out by researchers from the University of Sheffield, asked 499 male cancer survivors aged 18-55 years for their views on sperm banking, fertility and post-treatment semen analysis.

All of those quizzed had been treated for cancer more than five years ago and had banked sperm in either Sheffield or Nottingham.

More than one-third of the 193 men who responded said they had never attended a follow-up appointment to assess their fertility, while an additional third had only attended one session.

Patients should receive regular letters from fertility clinics underlining the importance of attending their appointments, according to the study's authors. Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield, said: "Trying to engage men with this subject is notoriously difficult.

"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."

Julia Frater, senior information nurse at Cancer Research UK, agreed: "This research highlights the need to talk to men about the value of ongoing fertility monitoring during the years following cancer treatment, and not just when they are diagnosed."

"Cancer mostly affects people after they have already completed their families, but for men who haven't fathered children, the possibility of fertility being reduced by chemotherapy or radiotherapy should also be properly discussed before treatment starts."

Copyright Press Association 2013

References

  • Pacey, A. Psychology behind sperm banking. Fertility 2013 conference.