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Freezing sperm: Sperm banking for testicular cancer

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The nitty gritty on sperm banking and other storing options

Freezing sperm before testicular cancer treatment is a really good idea, whether you think you want to have kids or not. It can also help to save some testicular tissue as well, which is sometimes known as fertility preservation.

The goal is saving sperm and tissue samples now, so you can use them later in life. Even if you’re on the fence about kids, it’s good to have the option further down the track.

Sperm banking is a common way to store sperm before treatment.

Here’s a quick rundown of how sperm banks and sperm banking works:

You’ll have some sperm samples collected (yep, this is done exactly as you think it is. Right into a cup). Then specialists will freeze your boys for later. Next, whenever you want to try for a baby you’ll have some top quality sperm ready to put to good use.

Without saving this sperm now, starting or expanding your family later may be more difficult. But this all depends on how fertile both you and your partner are, and which treatment you’ve had.

How do sperm banks work? What happens at the sperm banking appointment?

So, we’ll warn you now that sperm banking to freeze and store your sperm is a bit of a process. But don’t worry, you’ll have a team to guide you through it. It’s OK to be nervous or have a lot of questions. The staff will try to make you as comfortable as possible. And when you get to your appointment, they’ll give you the rundown of how it’ll all go.

First things first: paperwork

You’ll have some paperwork to sign, including a consent form. This is pretty straightforward and simply gives doctors permission to store your sperm.

And so you’re not caught off guard, you should know that you’ll be asked a number of personal questions. In particular, one question tends to catch people by surprise: What would you like done with the samples, if you were to die?

It’s not really a question anyone wants to think about, but your team needs to know so they can make sure it’s all written down. Having your wishes documented is a huge benefit, so it can guarantee that you, or your current partner, can use the samples in the future exactly how you want.

If your relationship with your partner changes, or you decide you’d like to change your previous wishes, don’t worry. All you have to do is contact the clinic and sign new paperwork to get them up to speed on your changed plans.

Next, it’s showtime: Giving your sperm sample

So, yes. Sperm banking requires you to masturbate in a private room and then ejaculate semen into a jar (or basically cum in a cup). The semen is then stored (by a professional) so you can use it later. But don’t worry — it’s not an “all eyes on you” situation. The doctors and staff do everything to make you comfortable and give you the utmost privacy.

Some guys have a hard time giving a sperm sample when they feel under pressure. Others might not feel well enough to come into the clinic. In these cases, please speak to the fertility specialist or andrologist about different options for you. Most places prefer you give your sperm sample while at the lab, but sometimes, they may be just fine with you bringing it in. Read on for more details.

At the lab, they’ll have a private room nearby where you can masturbate and put your sperm sample into a cup. You can go into the room alone or bring your partner if that makes it more comfortable. If you’re in a relationship, your partner may be able to ‘help’ you produce a sample, which can help ease nerves too and make things a little more comfortable.

For men that can’t produce a sperm sample by masturbating — there’s another option called “testicular sperm extraction.” This involves a fertility specialist or urologist removing a small amount of tissue from the testes with a needle. Next, the doctor examines the tissue under a microscope, finds mature sperm and stores them. So look, this is a little more difficult than masturbating but don’t worry. There’s a small risk of bruising, bleeding or infection but the whole process shouldn’t be too stressful. Talk to your doctor about any risks to be aware of.

If you’ve been given the OK to bring in your sample from home, you’ll likely be asked to collect semen into a special condom and then bring it into the lab afterwards. This is not a normal condom, but one that’s specially designed for this purpose.

You’ll probably be asked to give a couple of samples, generally three, across different days so the lab staff can store as much sperm as necessary.

Typically, you’ll be asked to not have sex, or even ejaculate, between each appointment. This might be tough but it’s important to follow this tip, to ensure you’re maximizing your sperm count.

Once you’ve handed your sample over to the lab, the sperm will be frozen and stored.

Before you leave the clinic, make sure you understand the guidelines around having your sperm stored. Usually, there are storage fees and a schedule for how often you’ll need to pay.

Remember: Stay in regular touch with the sperm bank so they know your contact details.

It's always recommended you discuss fertility with your care team. The next section talks about questions to ask and conversations you should be having.

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