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Men Can Ship Their Sperm to the Bank to Preserve Fertility
by Leigh Ann Woodruff, April 2, 2012
As women are becoming more aware of their fertility preservation options prior to cancer treatment, men are in need of information about their options, too. In fact, a survey published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found 77 percent of men who did not have children wished to preserve their fertility through cancer treatment.
Sperm freezing is the best fertility preserving option for men, and yet, not everyone lives near a sperm bank. The good news is that at-home sperm collection kits and overnight shipping provide long-distance storage options for men living anywhere in the United States, and they can take care of the collection process in the privacy and comfort of their own homes.
The Cleveland Clinic's Andrology Lab and Reproductive Tissue Bank is the latest to offer this service with their NextGen(SM) Home Sperm Banking Service. Men can use the specially-designed collection kit, which comes with instructions and packaging for overnight mail delivery to the Cleveland Clinic’s lab for cryopreservation and long-term storage. The specimens are tested for sperm quality and viability, and it is determined whether additional samples are needed. Then, the sperm samples are cryopreserved (frozen) and stored. Cleveland Clinic can ship specimens to qualified fertility clinics upon request.
“For more than three decades, we have successfully provided fertility preservation as a service to Cleveland Clinic patients and we are pleased to expand this important at-home option to men across the country,” said Ashok Agarwal, Ph.D., director of the Clinical Andrology Laboratory and Sperm Bank at Cleveland Clinic. "Research has shown that fertility preservation is a significant concern of men who are diagnosed with various types of cancer. It may also be desired by men undergoing vasectomy or men who work in dangerous occupations, such as the military. We have many out-of-state patients who would be able to bank with more convenience through this service, and we recognized the benefit of having a convenient, private and comfortable option for patients."
Cryogenic Laboratories, Inc., has offered a mail-in kit for more than 20 years and distributes approximately 20 kits per month, according to Michelle Ottey, laboratory director. The Priority Male Kit (TM) is $65, which includes return shipping to the Cryobank where the sample is immediately analyzed and processed to be frozen. "The fee for the process and freeze is $290," Ottey says. "The patient then has to choose a storage option that works for them: monthly, $40; or discounted pre-pay options for one, $320; three, $710; or five, $1,120 years. There is an additional fee for quarantine or biohazard storage if applicable."
The most common cancers seen in reproductive age men are testicular cancer and Hodgkin’s disease, both of which typically have survival rates above 90 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute. Unfortunately, the life-saving cancer treatments involving radiation or chemotherapy can impact sperm quantity and quality. "Certain cancers, such as testicular cancer, when diagnosed early are very treatable and often affect young men," says Dr. Argawal. "Because they are treatable, they still may have many years of reproductive age available. Sperm banking can be thought of as a form of biological insurance that can be used in this type of situation."
Others who may want to consider sperm banking are men in the military who are being deployed overseas, men in other dangerous occupations, those who are getting a vasectomy and want to bank some sperm, or those who have a medical condition other than cancer in which treatment could destroy fertility.
"The majority of the patients using the mail-in kit are cancer patients, but from time to time we have a military patient or someone who is undergoing medical treatment that has the potential to alter their fertility and so they opt to bank," Ottey says. "Banking sperm is an important step for cancer patients prior to their treatment because it is a way to preserve their fertility, but also because it is a process that is about hope and a belief in survival that will allow them to build a family one day in the future."
The at-home kits include a special transport media, which is added to the specimen prior to shipment to maintain the quality of the semen specimen during transportation. "Cleveland Clinic’s Andrology Lab and Reproductive Tissue Bank has successfully preserved donor specimens that have led to successful conception after 22 years of storage," says Agarwal. "Our testing showed that the service is reliable. Specimens collected by mail through NextGen did not differ significantly from control groups in terms of percentage of sperm survival or sperm motility."
Experts do recommend onsite sperm banking if possible, and most cities have fertility clinics that can offer this service by freezing the sperm and shipping it to sperm bank of your choice.
"Sperm banking in person is, of course, the best option for the best sample, but the mail-in kits are a wonderful option for patients who do not live close or who cannot produce a sample onsite at the lab," Ottey says.
Questions about banking sperm? Click here to find a fertility clinic near you.