Chemotherapy and total body irradiation can cause temporary or permanent infertility. Infertility is the inability to have children. Although rare, a few men and women have had children following treatment. It is important for you to discuss contraception issues with your doctor prior to discharge as well as any concerns you have regarding sexuality and fertility.
For Female Patients
Options for female patients include:
Freezing (cryopreservation) of fertilised eggs (ova), called zygotes, may be possible prior to receiving high-dose therapy. Your BMT physician can discuss this in more detail if you wish.
Use of donor eggs and in vitro fertilisation (IVF) in the future
For Male Patients
Sperm banking is a process available that involves freezing and storing sperm in liquid nitrogen. This sperm may be used at a later time for artificial insemination or in vitro fertilisation (IVF). Sperm can be stored in liquid nitrogen for up to ten years. This procedure depends on the sperm count and the quality of the sperm.
The patient's underlying disease and exposure to chemotherapy or radiation can decrease sperm counts. Patients interested in sperm banking should discuss this with their physician. For some patients, treatment cannot be safely delayed and if the sperm count is low, sperm banking may not be possible. A specimen can sometimes be collected even if the first dose of chemotherapy has been given. Patients should discuss this with their physician if they have concerns or questions.
Sperm Banking - What to Expect
Ideally, three samples of ejaculate are taken. Appointments should be made at least 48 hours apart. Abstaining from intercourse or ejaculation for at least 48 hours before each appointment will produce the best sperm count. Collect the sample by masturbating. Avoid using any lubricants, including saliva, as they can harm the sperm.
The first sample will be examined by the sperm bank laboratory to see whether it should be stored. The semen is checked for amount, motility (the ability to move), and normal cell shape, before freezing and after thawing.
There are sperm banking facilities and fertility clinics in several Canadian cities, including Vancouver. You doctor or social worker can help you contact them.