29 Apr April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month
The National Cancer Institute estimated 8,820 new cases of testicular cancer for 2014, the most common cancer in males age 15-35. It is not all doom and gloom, however. Testicular cancer is one of the most treatable cancers, especially if caught early. Be proactive! Men should perform monthly self-exams to check themselves. There are many videos on YouTube and other websites demonstrating how males can “Check ‘Em”. Testicular Cancer Foundation has a simple 3 step self-exam on its website, and they even offer to mail you a Shower Card that includes the self-exam instructions and information. They created the Shower Card to help parents deal with the awkwardness in talking with their sons. If a man finds any bumps or changes to his testicles, he should make an appointment with an urologist ASAP.
If a testicular cancer diagnosis is made, there are a few types of treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. All of these treatments can affect the reproductive system and may decrease fertility or cause infertility.
It is important for medical staff to discuss fertility preservation and sperm banking with patients at the time of diagnosis. Sperm banking is a simple way to preserve fertility, with a generally high success rate. Specimens are collected through masturbation. Multiple collections (2-3) with 48 hour abstinence between collections is the ideal. It is best to collect before treatment begins. However, pregnancies have occurred from as little as one specimen and viable samples may be collected after some treatments have begun. Almost every fertility clinic has the ability to bank sperm, and some offer discounts for cancer patients. The costs for sperm freezing vary depending on the number of specimens banked and the charges for the blood tests (most blood tests can be done by the oncology team as part of the patient’s treatment), but generally can be completed for less than $1000. Storage fees also vary, between $275-500 annually, but there are financial assistance programs available. You can search for a sperm bank in your area on ReproTech’s website.
For men who are unable to travel to a facility to bank sperm, whether due to illness or location, mail-in kits are available. ReproTech’s OverNite Male™ Kit is the original mail-in kit, and it remains the most economical. The cost of the kit, shipping and the first year of storage is $575 and financial assistance is available.
There are organizations that will provide financial assistance for sperm banking/fertility preservation services, but fertility clinics that participate in LIVESTRONG’s Fertility Discount Program are a good bet. Some clinics may not participate in LIVESTRONG’s program, but they MAY offer their own discounts to cancer patients – be sure to ask!