Medical fertility preservation for men
If you are diagnosed with a cancer where the recommended treatment may affect sperm quality or production, you may wish to consider sperm freezing in order to preserve your chance of having a family in the future when you are well again.
It is important to discuss this with your cancer specialist, who may refer you directly to the Andrology Unit at The Royal Women's Hospital or Melbourne IVF, or to a fertility specialist, depending on the urgency of your situation.
Both chemotherapy and radiotherapy may affect sperm production. The effect may be temporary or permanent. Once your treatment begins, it may be too late to collect and preserve your sperm.
Before you begin chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment, your sperm can be frozen and stored until you wish to start a family. Even if the sperm profile is poor, as is common during times of illness, it is usually possible to store sufficient sperm for use in IVF in the future.
Men who have to travel overseas or work in dangerous situations may also want to have their sperm frozen for possible use in the future.
How does sperm freezing work?
Sperm samples are collected in a private room in the Andrology Unit, so our scientists can prepare and freeze the sperm as soon as practical in order to achieve the best survival rate when subsequently thawed.
If you are unable to produce a sperm sample or if there are no sperm in the semen, it may be possible to collect sperm directly from the testicles in a procedure called testicular biopsy, where the sperm are obtained by passing a fine needle directly into the testicle under local or general anaesthetic. These sperm, while usually few in number, may be used at a later date for IVF (in vitro fertilisation)/ICSI (intracytoplasmic injection).
About 25-50% of the sperm will survive the process of freezing, and they can be stored for many years. There is a yearly fee for sperm storage, which is not covered by Medicare or private health insurance.
Current Victorian law specifies that sperm can be stored for a maximum of 10 years, and after that approval must be obtained to continue storage.