Prostate cancer treatment and loss of fertility

Following most forms of prostate cancer treatment, patient fertility is compromised. Though prostate cancer is most common among men over the age of 60, when many who plan to father children will have done so already, the concern of infertility is still important. Today, the probability of developing prostate cancer before the age of 49 is 1 in 325, according to Prostate ZERO. That rate increases for men between the ages of 50 and 59, to 1 in 48. As such, the loss of fertility remains a concern.

Treatment and loss of fertility 

The impact of infertility can take an emotional toll as well as a physical one.The impact of infertility can take an emotional toll as well as a physical one.

Men treated for prostate cancer through one of the most common treatment options, surgery or radiation, are at a heightened risk of infertility, according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF). Though efforts have been made to preserve one's ability to father children, it is generally not possible following treatment. A prostatectomy, surgery that removes all or part of the prostate gland, is one of the most common methods of treating prostate cancer today. During this surgery, not only is the prostate removed, but the seminal vesicles as well. These seminal vesicles, two small structures located at the base of the bladder, help the prostate to carry semen through the urethra and ejaculate out of the penis. Following surgery, ejaculation is no longer possible due to the loss of semen. Thus, the sperm has no way of reaching the woman's egg.

Hormone therapy generally runs the lowest risk of fertility loss, according to the Prostate Cancer Treatment Guide. If problems with fertility do exist, they will typically only be apparent during treatment. Afterward, the ability to produce sperm should return to normal. For those who undergo radiation therapy, the risk of fertility loss depends heavily on the dose of radiation received. If fertility is able return to normal again, it may take up to five years. What is promising however, is that the advance of more accurate dose planning has started to reduce this risk of infertility, noted the PCF

Fertility options following treatment

There are options for fertility following treatment  for prostate cancer. According to Prostate News Today, men can collect and store their sperm prior to treatment, known as sperm banking. Another option is that after prostate cancer surgery, sperm is taken directly out of the testicles and used to fertilize the partner of the patient. Often, the best option following infertility is the aforementioned sperm banking.

"There are other options for fertility following treatment."

According to the PCF, all cellular activity ceases when the sperm is frozen in liquid nitrogen during this time. However, after thawing, up to half of all sperm are able to regenerate and then be used in artificial insemination – the injection of the semen into the partner of the patient other than through sexual intercourse.

In addition to this physical side effect of treatment, there are generally emotional side effects as well. As such, it is encouraged to talk through feelings with health care provides, loved ones or professional counselors. Support groups can also provide a great network of encouragement and insight.