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Male Fertility and Prostate Cancer

Posted by Natalie Trice in fertility issues 11 Dec 2018

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While November is well and truly over, you might be wondering why your coffee barrister, friends and colleagues are sporting more facial hair than usual.

It is quite possible that they were taking part in  ‘Movember’and have grown fond of their beards and moustaches.

If you aren’t familiar with the concept of Movember, it is a popular annual charity event that takes place during November and aims to raise awareness of men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, as well as mental health and suicide.

With around 1 in 8 men in the UK likely to get prostate cancer at some point in their life, we are seeing an increasing number of patients who are dealing with this condition and are concerned with their fertility in the future, and are here to help.

While the majority of men with early prostate cancer don’t have any symptoms, but trouble when trying to urinate is a sign that something might be wrong.

Let’ start with the basics and say that only men have a prostate gland. It is  the same shape and size as a walnut, and grows bigger as you get older. The prostate gland is found under the bladder and surrounds the urethra (the tube men ejaculate and wee from).  The main job of the prostate gland is to help make semen, the fluid that carries men’s sperm, and that is why there is such a strong link with fertility.

Prostate cancer tends to grow slowly and happens when cells reproduce faster than usual, and this can lead to a tumour forming. If the tumour is left untreated, those cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body like the lymph nodes and bones, therefore treatment is needed.

Surgery that removes the prostate gland is one form of treatment and after the operation, semen is no longer ejaculated making it impossible to have children naturally. Men who have hormone or radiotherapy, may produce less or no semen, which makes it harder to have children naturally. These treatments can also potentially damage sperm and reduce sperm count, which is another stumbling block for conceiving naturally.

It is possible that the pressure and stress that cancer causes, can impact libido and erectile function, and some treatments can damage the blood vessels and nerves that are needed for an erection to occur.

There is no getting away from the devastation of a cancer diagnosis, but we do suggest that men who want to have children naturally after their treatment, consider putting their sperm in a sperm bank to be used at a later date. While this probably won’t be at the top of priorities, it is something to consider and it might make a positive difference to your future.

Speak to your GP or contact Prostate Cancer UK for more information and support, and get in touch with us if you are considering preserving your sperm for the future.

Oh, and next time you see someone with a moustache, just think about your health and if you need to talk about it, do it!