Future fertility is not always the first thing that comes to mind when cancer is diagnosed in an adolescent or young adult (AYA). Yet, with increasing survival rates conversations about preserving the future fertility of young cancer patients are becoming increasingly important.

Among teenage males undergoing cancer treatment, having children was ranked above making money, owning a home, faith, friends, or even a romantic relationship. Furthermore, male cancer survivors who experience infertility are also at higher risk of experiencing emotional distress. Yet according to a recent study, only 43.8% of male adolescent cancer patients banked sperm prior to undergoing cancer treatment.1

The study was the largest of its kind aimed at investigating the factors that influence sperm banking among AYA males. A total of 146 male patients with cancer ages 13 to 21 years old were surveyed. Alongside patients, 144 parents or guardians and 52 oncologists and other healthcare providers were also surveyed. The strongest predictors of choosing to bank sperm was a meeting with a fertility expert or recommendation from a parent. Among patients who met with fertility specialists, 30% attempted sperm banking, whereas 12% attempted sperm banking upon parental recommendation.

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Physical maturity was also a strong factor in the decision to bank sperm. Of the surveyed male cancer patients 53% attempted sperm banking, 82% of which were successful. “More physically mature patients should be encouraged to make a collection attempt,” said James Klosky, PhD, an associate member of the St. Jude Department of Psychology and lead author of the study.