Pioneering research presented at the Fertility 2013 conference today (Thursday 3 January 2013) shows that a large proportion of male cancer patients are missing out on appropriate fertility advice.
Sperm banking is routinely recommended for all men diagnosed with cancer who are at risk of long-term infertility, caused by treatment such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Infertility can be permanent or temporary depending on the individual's circumstances and men may need to attend follow-up appointments to assess their fertility in the years after they have been discharged from cancer treatment.
These appointments are important to receive appropriate fertility advice and in light of current sperm banking regulations which state sperm samples should be disposed of after 10 years if ongoing infertility cannot be confirmed.
Dr Allan Pacey, Senior Lecturer in Andrology, and Professor Christine Eiser, Professor in Psychology, at the University of Sheffield sent questionnaires to 499 male cancer survivors aged between 18 and 55 who had undergone cancer treatment more than five years ago and had taken the opportunity to bank sperm in either Sheffield or Nottingham.
The research, funded by Cancer Research UK, showed that of the 193 responses over a third of men (36 per cent) had never attended a follow-up appointment to assess their fertility, with a further third (33 per cent) only attending on one occasion.
Dr Allan Pacey said: "Trying to engage men with this subject is notoriously difficult. 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."
Non-attendance was found to be more likely in men who had suffered fewer side-effects at the time of treatment, had a more negative experience of banking sperm and had a more negative attitude to the disposal of sperm.