Though sperm banking is often recommended for men diagnosed with cancer, many of them do not follow up with fertility advice. In the case of men in the U.K., this could mean their sperm will be thrown away. U.K. sperm bank laws require samples to be disposed of after 10 years, if infertility can't be confirmed.
"Trying to engage men with this subject is notoriously difficult," said Dr. Allan Pacey, who presented the research and is a senior lecturer in Andrology at the University of Sheffield. "For those of us who run sperm banks, many men store their sperm and then do not contact us again, even though there are legal reasons to keep in contact.
"Our research suggests that there is a need to educate men about the benefits of attending follow-up fertility clinics and the long-term consequences of non-attendance."
Pacey sent questionnaires to 499 male cancer survivors who had been treated for their cancer more than five years ago. He found that over one-third of the men never made a follow-up appointment to assess their fertility, while another third only attended one follow-up.
Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation, can lead to permanent or temporary infertility. Pacey states that follow-up appointments are necessary for patients to receive crucial fertility advice.
"Sperm banking is highly valued by men who want the option to have children once cancer treatment is completed," said Christine Eiser, a psychology professor at the University of Sheffield. "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. Having received a cancer diagnosis, patients immediately need to take in a lot of information regarding treatments and side-effects and it can be challenging to discuss potential longer-term effects on fertility at this time. We therefore need a mechanism to ensure that men are given information about fertility issues at a later date and certainly before treatment ends."