The human body is designed with natural processes in place to replace older cells with younger, healthier ones. Different types of cells in different parts of the body respond to this natural process of cellular replication at different rates. When a cell develops abnormalities in the replication process, the body typically eliminates it.
Yet there are times when abnormal cells aren’t disposed of properly by the body. As it continues to replicate it can develop into further mutations, which can become cancerous. When this happens in the testicles, it can potentially develop into testicular cancer or one of the other forms of cancer that can develop in the male reproductive system. While this is more likely to occur as you grow older, cancer can still strike at any age.
How Do The Testes Influence Sperm Quality
Sperm cells are produced in thread-like tubes within the testes. These seminiferous tubules then move the relatively immature sperm cells on to a coiled tube structure called the epididymis where they will be stored while they continue to mature.
During the process of ejaculation, mature sperm cells are rapidly expelled from the epididymis through the vas deferens structure to the seminal vesicles. At that point, the sperm cells are mixed with an amalgam of fluids produced by the vesicles, and other glands to create semen. At that point, the fluid then enters the urethra, where they leave the male’s body.
When cancer develops in one of these testicular structures it can affect the man’s overall fertility. Young men who test positive for testicular cancer often worry about infertility issues. Many also worry that the treatment process could affect the fertility of their other healthy testicle, putting their chances of having children in jeopardy.
Fortunately, new research into testicular cancer and the overall impact of the treatment process on fertility is yielding results that can provide testicular cancer sufferers with some added peace of mind.
How Does Chemotherapy And Radiation Therapy Affect Fertility?
One study noted a rebound in male sperm counts in men who received a single course of chemotherapy or a related type of radiation therapy. This was part of a typical treatment plan after surgical intervention for early-stage testicular cancer.
There is also research that found decreased sperm concentrations in men who received relatively high doses of chemotherapy or radiotherapy. A similar effect was found in men who received multiple doses of chemotherapy as part of a treatment plan for more advanced testicular cancer. Yet it wasn’t clear whether a single course of chemotherapy or radiotherapy could have a similar effect.
Another research study examined a group of men, between 18 to 50 years of age, who had received surgery for stage 1 testicular cancer. The procedure was followed by either a single course of chemotherapy, a course of radiation therapy. After which no further treatment was administered.
Are There Long-Term Effects?
Six months later 182 men from the study provided sperm samples. Then again at one year, two years, three years and five years post-surgery. The data was then analyzed and published in the Annals of Oncology.
It found that there was no significant detrimental long-term effect to the male’s total number of sperm number or their sperm concentration, regardless of the method of post-operative treatment. This is certainly encouraging news for young men who aspire to become fathers one day, who have also been diagnosed with the early stages of testicular cancer.
Amongst the men in the study who received radiotherapy, there was a notable decrease in their average sperm number as well as their sperm concentration at the six-month sample. Though this same effect was not found in males who received chemotherapy. Fortunately, the sperm numbers and concentration for the radiotherapy group showed a healthy rebound in the one-year, two-year, three and five-year samples.
Many testicular cancer and reproductive specialists note that postoperative chemotherapy has been shown to substantially reduce a man’s risk of relapse for early-stage testicular cancer. This then reduces the chances of a patient needed more advanced chemotherapy treatment later on.
Statistically, testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men between 15 to 40 years of age. With the vast majority of patients who test positive for testicular cancer requiring surgical intervention to fully remove the affected testicle. This procedure which is known as orchiectomy typically does not involve the other testicle.
Because the average age range is at a time in a man’s life when they are at or near peak fertility, testicular cancer patients often still want to father a child at some point. So, for these men, a positive diagnosis and orchiectomy treatment can also come with substantial emotional stress, on top of the salient medical concern. Fortunately, this growing body of research can provide a little added reassurance.
Early Detection And Treatment Is Key
Of course, a key factor is to catch the onset of testicular cancer early. The success of the treatment plan and the minimal impact of chemotherapy on long-term male fertility hinges on early diagnosis and treatment.
Some of the more common symptoms of testicular cancer include a lump or enlargement in a testicle, this might be associated with growing discomfort or pain, a heavy-feeling scrotum, or a dull abdominal ache as well as lower back pain. Testicular cancer can also affect your body’s hormone balance causing things like an enlargement or tenderness in breast tissues.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it would be wise to schedule an appointment with your doctor. If they have further concerns they will likely refer you to an oncologist or other specialists in the field to start the process of diagnosis and treatment.
If you have recently been diagnosed with the early onset of testicular cancer, there is a great deal of hope that chemotherapy and surgical intervention can effectively treat your symptoms without having a long-term adverse impact on your fertility. It also might be advisable to start sperm banking before surgical treatment . This could serve as an insurance policy, just in case you do happen to experience decreased sperm count or issues with sperm concentration and quality after treatment.
Source – Cancer.org