by Dr Agilan Arjunan
The month of October is dedicated for cancer awareness.
Pink October is a month for breast cancer awareness. There is considerable media attention on the issue of breast cancer and breast cancer survivors .
Thus, it is appropriate and also essential to dwell into a topic so important to all cancer survivors, yet seldom discussed, which is their fertility health preservation. Cancer treatment, specially chemotherapy, can potentially lead to sterility due to its effects on the gonads ( ovaries and testicles).
In recent years, we are seeing more cancer survivors , thanks to the advancement in diagnosis and treatment of all types of cancers. Many childhood and young cancer survivors live through their adulthood and their need to start a family warrants attention.
Typically, the discussion about any fertility preservation technique for a patient starts with their oncologist. The issue becomes more complicated if the patient is a minor. In this situation, parents usually decide in the best interest of their child after discussion with their oncologist and fertility specialist.
The suitability of each methods of fertility preservation depends on the type of cancer, the treatment regime, the time interval between diagnosis and treatment and the status of sexual development of the patient (i.e pre-pubertal vs post-pubertal).
Post-pubertal boys / Young adults
In post-pubertal boys and young adults, the most established method of fertility preservation is cryopreservation of their sperm . This is simply known as sperm freezing. Sperms that are frozen can be kept in liquid nitrogen for many years. Once the patient had overcome his struggles and ready to start a family, his sperm can be thawed and with the assistance of reproductive techniques , he can realise his hope of have his own child.