Sperm preservation clinic

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The Women’s Fertility Preservation Clinic is focused on the protection and preservation of fertility for the future.

We specialise in providing care in fertility considerations for patients who have cancer or another health issue that puts fertility at risk. This includes people of all sex and genders.

Why it's important to preserve sperm before your treatment

If you have been diagnosed with a condition or a disease that requires medical or surgical treatment to keep you healthy, you may require interventions like radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.

These treatments can sometimes cause infertility or problems with reproductive organs by:

  • reducing sperm production and/or
  • causing damage to sperm so they don’t work properly.

This infertility can be temporary or permanent.

Sperm that is collected and frozen close after starting chemotherapy and radiotherapy is at high risk of genetic damage. This means the sperm may not work properly, but also that they could cause an abnormal pregnancy.

Depending on the type of treatment, sperm production may never return to normal and in some cases, people will have no sperm production at all after treatment.

Even if you are unsure about whether you want to have a child in the future, storing sperm can be a simple way to keep your options open.

Chemotherapy

This is a common treatment for many cancers. Certain types of chemotherapy can be:

  • toxic to sperm and immature sperm stem cells 
  • damage cells in the testes that help support sperm production (Sertoli and Leydig cells).

These effects happen very quickly after starting chemotherapy.

In some cases, the damage is only temporary and sperm production recovers. Recovery may not be immediate and for some people, it may take up to five years to occur.

In other cases, damage may be permanent and sperm production never returns to normal. The risk of permanent damage and the speed of potential recovery depends a lot on the type(s) of chemotherapy, but also the dose and duration of chemotherapy.

Radiation

Radiation therapy to the groin area may also cause:

  • low sperm counts by destroying sperm and the stem cells that make sperm 
  • damage to the genetic material inside sperm.

Radiation therapy to the brain can potentially damage the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is a pea-sized gland that produces a range of hormones including those that control sperm and testosterone production in the testes. If the pituitary gland is damaged from radiation therapy, you may experience low testosterone and low sperm production, together with other hormone deficiencies.

Surgery

Surgery for cancers of the reproductive organs (e.g. testicular cancer) and cancers in the pelvis (e.g. bladder, colon, prostate and rectal cancer) can damage these organs and/or nearby nerves, leading to infertility.

Testicular cancers may require surgical removal of the entire testicle so that the cancer is safely treated. This type of surgery is called an orchidectomy (testicle removal) and it can be unilateral (one side only) or bilateral (both sides).

Removing one testicle alone may not cause infertility if the other testicle is working normally. But it can result in reduced sperm concentration in people who already have poor sperm production.

Fertility preservation - sperm storage (freezing)

So what can you do preserve your fertility?

Good news, the process is normally quick and simple!

Cryopreservation of sperm or ‘sperm freezing’ is a well-established and successful way to preserve your fertility.

What is involved in sperm storage?

To store sperm, you will need to attend an andrology laboratory that provides a storage service (e.g. The Royal Women's Hospital's Andrology Unit and Sperm Bank). You will be asked to provide a semen sample, preferably on-site and after 2-7 days of abstinence.

If you cannot provide a sample on-site, then you can bring a sample from home, provided it arrives at the laboratory within one hour of collection. It is important the sample is kept at body temperature, and you avoid all lubricants. If you are producing it at home, please arrange this with the Andrology Unit first.

Sperm does not need to be transported in a complicated way. Please do not transport with ice blocks or an ice pack as this can damage the sample. Please place the specimen jar in your pocket or in a handbag where it will stay at body temperature.

If you are unable to attend the Andrology Unit or bring the sample in yourself - you can nominate a family member or friend to do so. Please advise the Andrology Unit of this, as special documentation and consent is required.

Once the sample has been received by the laboratory, the scientists will first look at the sample and determine your sperm count, as well as how well the sperm swim (motility) and their appearance (morphology). Any sperm in the sample can then be frozen and stored for later use.

What are the costs?

Diagnostics

  Charge Medicare Rebate Out of pocket
1. Semen Analysis $71.40 $35.50 $35.90
2. Sperm Antibody $42.00 $24.10 $17.90
3. Combined $113.40 $59.60 $53.80

 

Sperm Banking

1. Initial Charge     

$286 (for processing and storage for one year, of up to four semen samples. Each sample will require semen analysis, as per the cost above).

Concession rate: $214.50 (for holders of current Healthcare concession cards).
 

2. Ongoing Rate   

$220 per year (annual sperm storage fee payable on the anniversary of initial storage, and for all subsequent years of storage)

Concession rate: $165 per year (for holders of current Healthcare concession cards)

How can I arrange sperm storage?

You will need a referral from a doctor to arrange sperm storage. This can be organised by your treating specialist or by your GP.  The referral will then be forwarded on to the Andrology Department at the Royal Women’s Hospital.

How is frozen sperm used later on?

If in the future, your sperm production has not recovered and/or your doctors are concerned that your sperm may be damaged after your treatment, the stored sperm can be used in assisted reproductive technologies such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilisation (IVF) to achieve a pregnancy.

Where can I get more information?

If your treating clinicians have not mentioned freezing sperm as a part of your disease/cancer treatment plan, please raise this issue with them or your local GP.

Alternatively, if you are concerned and unsure where to get information from, please contact our:

Reproductive services Fertility Preservation Nurse on 8435 3227 or email



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