How testicular cancer impacts fertility
Testicular cancer is a disease that causes cancer cells to grow in the testicles. While not as common as other forms, testicular cancer most commonly occurs in males ages 15-45. Unlike other types, testicular cancer is considered easily treatable, even when the cancerous cells have spread to other parts of the body. Most experts agree that if only 1 testicle is removed, fertility should return roughly 2 years after treatment is finished. However, if both testicles need to be removed or a patient undergoes chemotherapy, fertility can be impacted more long-term. Many cancer survivors can also experience erectile dysfunction (ED) or decreased libido, factors that can also affect male fertility.
Preserving fertility before treatment
Fertility preservation options will vary depending on the severity of the testicular cancer and treatment plans. Men and boys are often encouraged to bank a sperm sample before undergoing chemotherapy as a preventative solution. However, since testicular cancer can also cause low sperm counts, this approach may not be sufficient.
The single-sperm approach
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is one of many assistive fertility treatments that can be done in conjunction with in vitro fertilization (IVF) to help achieve pregnancy. With ICSI, a single sperm is injected into the woman’s egg using a tiny needle. This direct approach increases the potential for fertilization. ICSI is ideal for men with low sperm counts since traditional IVF relies on much larger sperm samples to increase conception odds.
Other reasons for ICSI
While low sperm count is one of the main reasons a couple would consider ICSI, other conditions may also be at play. For example, a man’s sperm may have poor motility or difficulty attaching to the egg to complete fertilization. Likewise, the procedure can also benefit men with physical blockage in the reproductive tract. Couples that have undergone traditional IVF rounds without success may also be good candidates.
Is ICSI the right call?
Not every man who is diagnosed with testicular cancer will experience infertility. For many patients, fertility can return anywhere from 6 months to 2 years after treatment is completed. For men struggling with low sperm count related to cancer treatment, ICSI can serve as a solid solution to achieve the goal of parenthood. A fertility specialist can help determine if ICSI or another assisted reproductive therapy can help improve fertility outcomes.