Sperm banks are unpopular, even with patients suffering from cancer and facing treatments that may make them infertile. A new study led by McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) researcher Dr. Peter Chan examines why sperm banks are such an underused resource. The new study, published in a recent issue of the scientific journal Human Reproduction, highlights the need to improve doctor-patient communication about the benefits of sperm banking, and the need for accurate and personalized information about the high risk of infertility associated with treatment for testicular cancer and Hodgkin's lymphoma. It also reveals that Quebecers are less likely than patients of immigrant descent to choose sperm banking as an option to father children in the future.
Testicular cancer and Hodgkin's lymphoma are among the most common malignancies to affect young men of reproductive age. "Testicular cancer accounts for over 25 percent of all cancers diagnosed in men aged 20-24 years, and Hodgkin's lymphoma accounts for about 15 percent in the same age group," says Dr. Peter Chan, Director of Male Reproductive Medicine at the MUHC, and senior author of the new study. Medical advances have made both malignancies highly curable, but one concern that remains for patients is their high risk of infertility. "Sperm banking is the best hope for cancer patients that may wish to father children in the future," says Dr. Chan. Despite this, sperm banking remains underutilized. "We wanted to investigate this issue in the hope that our findings could be used to assist health care professionals promote sperm banking to their patients," says Dr. Chan.
The study, which involved in-depth interviews with cancer survivors and health care professionals, identified several factors as having an impact on sperm banking. Naturally, the desire to become a father, current fatherhood status, the influence of a parent or partner, and the attitude towards survival, affected whether a patient chose to sperm bank. "We discovered a need for improvement in the way health care professionals present information about sperm banking to patients," says Dr. Chan. "The study also highlighted the need for accurate and personalized information about the high risk of infertility associated with treatment for testicular cancer and Hodgkin's lymphoma." Interestingly, cost was not a major consideration in most cases, despite the fact that some private clinics charge between $200-$500 Cdn per year to bank sperm. Interestingly, the study also revealed that Quebecers are less likely than patients of immigrant descent to choose sperm banking as an option to father children in the future.
The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is a comprehensive academic health institution with an international reputation for excellence in clinical programs, research and teaching. The MUHC is a merger of five teaching hospitals affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University — the Montreal Children's, Montreal General, Royal Victoria, and Montreal Neurological Hospitals, as well as the Montreal Chest Institute. Building on the tradition of medical leadership of the founding hospitals, the goal of the MUHC is to provide patient care based on the most advanced knowledge in the health care field, and to contribute to the development of new knowledge. www.muhc.ca