Medfem Supports Testicular Cancer Awareness Month in April
April each year is observed as Testicular Cancer Awareness Month in several countries, recognising the wide incidence of this type of reproductive cancer, which can fortunately be treated very effectively, especially if detected early enough.
This year, our team at Medfem Fertility Clinic would like to contribute to awareness of this treatable cancer, as well as its often-severe impact on a man’s fertility, and the sperm preservation solutions that are available to those who have been diagnosed with testicular cancer or are receiving treatment for it.
In countries around the world, including the US, UK and Australia, April is observed as Testicular Cancer Awareness Month.
And for good reason, because as The Men’s Health Network notes, testicular cancer is the most common type of cancer in men ages 15-35. Yet, because it accounts for only about 1 percent of all cancers in men, many people have never heard of this type of cancer. Testicular cancer affects men mostly in their reproductive age and can have a significant impact on fertility.
In this article, we find out more about testicular cancer, its impact on fertility and how men facing testicular cancer and cancer treatments can preserve their fertility to ensure they can still father their own biological children even if their fertility is affected.
More about testicular cancer
The National Cancer Institute and the The Men’s Health Network note that testicular cancer is of special concern to young men, but can occur in middle-aged and older men, and explain the risk factors, symptoms and diagnosis and treatment as below.
The risk factors for testicular cancer include the following:
* an undescended testicle, especially if it did not move down into the scrotum;
* abnormal testicular development;
* family history of testicular cancer, with a greater risk in men whose brother or father has had the disease;
* history of testicular cancer, as men who have had testicular cancer are at increased risk of developing cancer in the other testicle;
* Klinefelter’s syndrome, a sex chromosome disorder.
The most common symptom of testicular cancer is a small, painless lump in a testicle or a slightly enlarged testicle. Other possible symptoms include a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum, a dull ache in the lower stomach or groin, a change in the way a testicle feels, or a sudden accumulation of blood or fluid in the scrotum. However, these symptoms can also be caused by infections or other conditions that are not cancer.
A simple procedure called testicular self-exam (TSE) can increase the chances of finding a tumor early.
Many years ago, testicular cancer was often fatal because it spread quickly to vital organs such as the lungs. Today, due to advances in treatment, testicular cancer is one of the most curable cancers, especially if found early and treated promptly. Patients with TC have an excellent survival rate.
Men should perform TSE once a month-after a warm bath or shower. The heat causes the scrotal skin to relax, making it easier to find anything unusual. TSE is simple and only takes a few minutes:
* Examine each testicle gently with both hands. The index and middle fingers should be placed underneath the testicle while the thumbs are placed on the top.
* Roll the testicle gently between the thumbs and fingers. One testicle may be larger than the other – this is normal.
* The epididymis is a cord-like structure on the top and back of the testicle that stores and transports the sperm. Do not confuse the epididymis with an abnormal lump.
* Feel for any abnormal lumps-about the size of a pea-on the front or the side of the testicle. These lumps are usually painless.
If you do find a lump, you should contact your healthcare provider right away. The lump may be due to an infection, and a healthcare provider can decide the proper treatment. If the lump is not an infection, it can be cancer.
Remember that testicular cancer is highly curable, especially when detected and treated early. It also almost always occurs in only one testicle, and one healthy testicle may be enough for full sexual function and fertility.
Impact on fertility
CANSA’s Fact Sheet on Testicular Cancer and Male Fertility provides the useful overview of the impact of testicular cancer on a man’s fertility.
Because it occurs mostly in men between the ages of 15 and 49, testicular cancer affects men mostly in their reproductive age.
Testicular cancer and its treatment can affect hormone levels and might affect a man’s ability to father children after treatment. Most boys and men who develop testicular cancer, develop cancer in only one testicle. The remaining testicle usually can make enough testosterone (the main male hormone) to keep the person healthy.
If the other testicle needs to be removed because the cancer is present in both testicles, or if a new cancer develops in the other remaining testicle, the individual will need to take some form of testosterone supplementation for the rest of his life. Most often this is in the form of a gel or patch that is applied to the skin or a monthly injection.
Testicular cancer, or its treatment, can make a person infertile (unable to father a child). Infertility can be an issue later in life for boys who had testicular cancer.
It is, therefore, important to discuss the possible effects with a doctor before starting testicular cancer treatment so that one is aware of the risks and what options may be available.
Before treatment starts, men who might wish to father children later in life, may want to consider storing sperm in a sperm bank for later use, since the frozen samples are not damaged even by long periods of storage.
The sperm preservation solutions
Fortunately, thanks to advances in medical science, if cancer treatments are needed, men can preserve their fertility before treatment commences, by freezing their sperm or tissue. This will provide a possibility to conceive after the cancer treatment through assisted reproduction techniques such as IVF.
Sperm freezing and storage is a realistic and trusted option today, thanks to a revolutionary technology called vitrification – a new freezing technique. Vitrification freezes sperm at a very fast rate, so that the sperm cells are preserved without the formation of damaging ice crystals.
Sperm can also be frozen indefinitely, making sperm freezing and storing an effective method of preserving fertility for men.
In cases where there is no sperm, a testicular sperm extraction (TESE) can be offered as an alternative.
Has cancer affected your fertility?
At Medfem Fertility Clinic, we have years of experience in cryopreservation. This means that we are able to provide you with an expert medical opinion about your current and future reproductive potential as well as your eligibility for sperm freezing.
Given the urgency of fertility preservation following a cancer diagnosis, we try to see all urgent cancer-related cases within 24 hours of having received a referral from your physician.
At Medfem we believe in helping you reach your family dream through:
* World-Class Fertility for Everyone – we believe in making world-class fertility treatments available for everyone
* A Positive Fertility Journey – It is our joy and commitment to give you a positive outcome to your fertility journey
* Delivered With Empathy & Caring – So you may have a fond memory, of a feeling of empathy, caring and being part of the Medfem family
Simply click here to book an initial consultation or contact us telephonically on +27 (11) 463 2244. Our Fertility Specialists can also meet with You During a Virtual Consultation Via Zoom or Skype. Click here to book a virtual consultation now.
We look forward to meeting you at Medfem Fertility Clinic!