What is sperm banking?
Sperm is what you need to have kids. It comes from your testicles (balls). When you have sex or masturbate (wank) fluid comes out of the end of your penis containing the sperm. Sperm banking is getting some of your sperm and putting them in a freezer for you to use later; a bit like putting some money in a bank for later on.
Why do I need to do this?
It is very unfortunate that you are experiencing this so young, but it's not your fault you have cancer, it can affect anyone at any time. The plan is to cure your cancer and make you better, but the treatment may also stop you being able to make sperm, meaning that you won't be able to have kids. If you are able to put sperm in the sperm bank, you can then use it in the future to hopefully father a child. It is important that you talk to us, get to know the facts, and find out what we can do to help.
Will I definitely not be able to make sperm after treatment?
It depends on the treatment you have. Some people stop making sperm for a few years then make it again, others don't.
So what happens first?
We will arrange an appointment for you. As with all hospital procedures your permission will be needed before we can talk to you and freeze your sperm. You need to sign some consent forms, telling us how long you want to store the sperm, what it can be used for, and what should happen to the sperm if you die while it is still stored. This is all done in confidence; nobody needs to know you have sperm banked apart from you and us. Don't feel embarrassed about talking to the nurse because she deals with lads like you all the time, so ask questions!
What if mum and dad say I'm not allowed?
They can't! Although we encourage you to talk to your parents, you don't have to if you don’t want to. It is your decision - the nurse is willing to talk to your parents at any stage, if you want her to.
How do I get my sperm into the sperm bank?
When the time comes to give your sperm sample you will be shown into a private room with a lock on the door. Don't worry about being disturbed, because you will be left alone for as long as you need. You will be given a pot in which to collect your semen (cum). Basically you need to masturbate (wank) and collect your cum into the pot. Don't expect to fill the pot, most lads only produce enough cum to thinly cover the bottom of the pot. You may feel a bit uncomfortable at first, and it might not be easy, as you will feel slightly under pressure to produce the sample but just try to relax and hopefully things will happen.
What if I can't cum?
Don't worry it happens to a lot of people who visit us for sperm banking. It is a very nerve racking thing to have to go through on top of all the worries you already have. We can arrange another appointment for you or you can produce the sample somewhere else.
So where does my sperm go now?
We have a team of scientists who work in the lab. They will collect the pot and look under a microscope to see how many sperm are in your sample. If there are sperm in your sample, they will be frozen and stored at Cambridge IVF in liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen is very cold and will keep your sperm frozen for many years without them dying so that you can store your sperm now and know that they will be there waiting for you in the future when you are ready to thaw them and use them to try to have a baby of your own.
So I've frozen my sperm, what about the future?
After your treatment, we will contact you every year to check that you still want your sperm stored and that your circumstances have not changed. We will invite you to visit the centre for a chat and to let us look at another sample to see if you are making sperm again. On the basis of this result we can then discuss your options.
What if I change my mind?
Not a problem! You can alter your consent forms at any time. We're human just like you; if you have any questions, please, please ask. That is what we are here for! There are phone numbers on the back of this leaflet.
You are young, and don't know what the future holds for you! The treatment you are having may stop you having children. Storing your sperm is offering you hope of having your own kids when you are ready. Think about it… you don't want to look back and wish you'd changed your past because it may be too late by then.
Some Frequently Asked Questions…
Q. Will it hurt?
A. No, sperm banking does not hurt you at all.
Q. How many samples can I give?
A. We would usually take 2 or 3 samples, if there were time before you start your cancer treatment.
Q. Will it work?
A. There is no guarantee that the sperm will survive freezing, or that it can be used to successfully make a baby, but at least you will have the option of trying.
Q. So what are the chances of having a baby from the sperm I provide?
A. This is highly dependent on you and your partner's fertility, but remember we can make babies from really low numbers of sperm. We have information about the treatment options available.
Q. What is the youngest age I can bank sperm?
A. You need to be at a certain stage of puberty to bank sperm. Usually around 14 years old, but this varies.
Q. How long can it be stored?
A. For up to 55 years or any time before that, you decide. You can change your mind at any time, just let us know!
Q. What if my parents don't want me to do it?
A. It is your decision; you shouldn't let them stop you doing something that will effect your future.
Q. Will the sperm survive the freezing?
A. Sperm are very durable and most of them normally survive; however some sperm will not. To find out how many sperm will die, we thaw out a little bit of the frozen sperm and tell you the results.
We are smoke-free
Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.
Help accessing this information in other formats is available. To find out more about the services we provide, please visit our patient information help page (see link below) or telephone 01223 256998. www.cuh.nhs.uk/contact-us/accessible-information/
Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge
Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151