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Does radiotherapy for seminoma damage sperm?

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My husband has recently had radiotherapy for seminoma. We want to have a baby but have been told to wait before trying. Is this because the radiotherapy can damage sperm?

Radiotherapy is a very successful treatment for men who have a type of testicular cancer called seminoma. Most men are cured of this cancer and can go on to father children. But it is true that after radiotherapy treatment, men are advised to wait some time before fathering a child in case their sperm have been affected. The following information tells you more about this.

Men with seminoma often have radiotherapy treatment after surgery to remove the testicle that is cancerous. Radiotherapy is used to reduce the chance of the seminoma coming back or to treat any cancer spread to lymph nodes at the back of the abdomen.

When treating the lymph nodes, the radiotherapy beams are directed at an area down the middle of the tummy or abdomen, and sometimes at the groin. There is a small risk of some radiotherapy being scattered to the remaining testicle, as it is quite close by. The testicles are where sperm are made so a lead shield is used to protect the testicle from the radiotherapy beams.

Doctors advise men not to try to father a child when on treatment, and for at least a year afterwards. This is just in case the testicle has been affected by the radiotherapy to the abdomen. In a healthy testicle, sperm are constantly being made, so any effects from the radiotherapy should only last for a few months after treatment has finished. Research has shown that the risk of having an abnormal baby is not increased in men who've had radiotherapy for testicular cancer.

Men are also advised to wait at least a year after treatment before trying for a baby because of the risk of the cancer coming back. If the cancer does come back it is more likely to do so within the first year after treatment.

The best person for your husband to talk to about his treatment, including any effects on fertility, is his specialist doctor. He or she can provide more specific information relevant to your husbands individual case.