Prostate cancer is an illness that is costly in all means. It costs us our time, our strength, our happiness, our finances, and even our fertility.
Luckily, this type of cancer has a form of treatment that is given in phases. It is administered in the form of radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy involves the use of radiation rays to burn cancer cells. This treatment, however, affects our fertility through the following:
A. The Amount of Radiation Used on Treatment
Treating prostate cancer involves regulating the number of radiation waves. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, when you get high doses of radiation, you can take more than five years before you become fertile again.
During this period, you will be undergoing hormone therapy to enhance your recovery process. According to the foundation, regulating the radiation to the correct quantities have shown real promise.
When administered in the correct doses, it reduces the risk of infertility.
B. Interfering with the Leydig Cells
These cells are essential in male fertility as they facilitate the production of testosterone. Testosterone is a hormone that is responsible for producing sperm.
However, when you receive high doses of radiation during treatment, they damage your Leydig cells.
According to Michigan Rogel Cancer Center, radiation treatments above 2400cGy is what become harmful to the normal functioning of Leydig cells.
Otherwise, doses that are below 2400cGy are considered safe. Such doses do not have a significant effect on your fertility. Well, unless you had other complications before you started your therapy which you did not disclose to your doctor.
Once the Leydig cells are damaged, the production of testosterone gets affected. In return, your sperm production also gets affected, and you lose your chances of biologically fathering a child.
C. Brachytherapy Exposure
This form of radiation involves inserting radioactive implants to the affected area. The implants may also be placed next to the infected area.
According to a study published in the Journal of American Urological Association, brachytherapy affects the LH, serum levels and spermatogenesis.
Once the LH is affected, it affects the entire reproduction system. The simulation in the brain through the pituitary gland to produce testosterone gets disconnected.
As a result, the spermatogenesis process fails to occur. Thus, the levels of serum when measured goes below the required quantity. Therefore, sperm motility is affected and cannot swim through to fertilize an ovum.
The effects of brachytherapy are permanent and non-reversible. According to the study, men undergoing this treatment should be given counseling before they embark on it.
The counseling is meant to prepare them of this possible effect after treatment. Also, it is intended to make sure they are ready for this form of therapy.
How to Maintain Fertility During Radiation Treatment
Fertility is no doubt one of the most significant concerns to any man of childbearing age. If you are about to undergo this treatment and still want to have children, consider the following:
1. Sperm Banking
This method is painless and straightforward. It involves getting the sperm from you through masturbation, with the help of a sterilized lubricant.
Once you have extracted your sperm, it is tested for any infections or defects. If the test results are good, your sperm gets stored in a frozen state. You can use it later with your partner and get her pregnant through IVF.
Sperm banking is a sure way of having healthy babies since sperm is highly evaluated before storage.
Sperm can be banked for as long as you chose. Thus, you do not have to worry about its life span. With sperm banking, you decide the spacing intervals between your children perfectly.
The best thing about sperm banking is you chose what to do with the remaining sperm after you are done with making children. You may choose to donate or release it to perish.
2. Get the Right Radiation Dose
While undergoing this treatment, it is essential for you to know your dose. If you find your doctor administering a higher dose than 2400cGy, raise a question to them.
Such doses are not healthy for people who still want to become parents. Always make sure you follow your treatment.
Thus, a thorough background check on a health facility is crucial. You will be able to learn whether you are dealing with a quark facility or not.
Also, take time to look at the number of successful treatments that that particular facility has offered. It will save you from getting experimental doses, perhaps acting as the testing specimen.
Once you have considered all these factors, your fertility has very high chances to survive the treatment. Even if it has any effect on you, it will be temporary. You will, therefore, get children but at a later date.
Fighting cancer is a journey that requires patience. A lot of resources are needed to make it through. While undergoing radiation treatment for prostate cancer, you will need a lot of support from your loved ones. Allow them to give you this support, because you will need it.
If you are not yet a father and would like to become one, this information can be a great deal to you. You may want to consider banking your sperm since you do not know how your body will react to the radiation. After all, our bodies do not respond to the same when undergoing treatment.