NEW plans are needed to encourage male cancer survivors to check on their fertility levels, according to Sheffield University researchers.
Too many men are missing out on the advice they need – even though many bank their sperm prior to treatment.
Banking sperm is routinely recommended for all men diagnosed with cancer who are at risk of long-term infertility, caused by treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Infertility can be permanent or temporary and men may need to attend follow-up appointments to assess their status in the years after they have been discharged from cancer treatment.
The advice is important in light of current regulations, which state sperm samples should be disposed of after 10 years if ongoing infertility cannot be confirmed.
Almost 200 cancer survivors were quizzed and a research team found more than a third had never gone to follow-up appointments, with a further third only attending once.
Senior lecturer Dr Allan Pacey said getting men to respond to fertility checks was notoriously difficult.
He said: “For those of us who run sperm banks, many men store their sperm and then do not contact us ever again, even though there are legal reasons to keep in contact.
“Our research suggests there is a need to educate men about the benefits of attending follow-up fertility clinics and the long-term consequences of non-attendance.”
The Sheffield study shows new education strategies are urgently needed from the time of diagnosis to inform men about the importance of fertility monitoring.
Team member Professor Christine Eiser said: “Sperm banking is highly valued by men who want the option to have children once cancer treatment is completed.
“Our research found that many men do not know how cancer treatment can affect their fertility or the likelihood of fertility recovery over the long-term. We need a mechanism to ensure that men are given information about fertility at a later date.”