A-Z Health Topics


Return to Index
by Polsdorfer R

Managing the Side Effects of Testicular Cancer and Its Treatment

Testicular cancer and its treatments can affect sexual function and fertility. Some of the problems may include:
  • If both testicles are removed, then no sperm cells or hormones can be made. This can cause systemic issues and infertility. (One healthy testicle is able to make enough sperm and hormones to keep normal function.)
  • Nerve or blood vessel damage from treatments like surgery or radiation.

Sexual Function

Nerves, blood vessels, and hormone signals all plays a role in sexual function. Testicular cancer or its treatment may cause:
  • Erectile dysfunction—Difficulty or inability to achieve or maintain an erection.
  • Retrograde ejaculation—Semen is redirected to the bladder instead of through the urethra and out of the body during ejaculation. This can be caused by nerve or muscle damage.
  • Pain during sex—Treatments can irritate the prostate gland or urethra.
  • Decreased interest or desire for sex—may be caused by change in hormones.
A variety of treatments may be available to manage the side effects. Medications and hormone replacement may help relieve some problems. Surgery and certain devices may be needed for more severe complications.

Fertility Preservation

Male fertility is affected by surgery, chemotherapy drugs, and radiation directed at the genitals. Most men experience reduced or zero sperm counts during treatment. Generally, sperm counts rebound after treatment is over, but it can take can take up to 4 years or more years. Factors like age, or the duration of chemotherapy and drugs used, can affect recovery.
To preserve fertility, sperm can be banked prior to the start of treatment. This option also available for boys who have reached puberty. Sperm banking is a process of collecting and freezing semen. When it's time to start a family, semen can be thawed and used to fertilize eggs. For boys who have not reached puberty, preserving testicular tissue may be an option, but it is not known how successful the process is.
Have an honest talk with your doctor about any problems or concerns you have about sexual function and fertility. Your doctor may refer you and your partner to a counselor for help.
Have an honest talk with your doctor about any problems or concerns you have about sexual function and fertility. Your doctor may refer you and your partner to a counselor for help.

References

Cancer and fertility. NCCN—National Comprehensive Cancer Network website. Available at: https://www.nccn.org/patients/resources/life%5Fwith%5Fcancer/fertility.aspx. Accessed September 22, 2017.
Sex and the man with cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/fertility-and-sexual-side-effects/sexuality-for-men-with-cancer/sex-problems.html. Accessed September 22, 2017.
Treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/testicular/patient/testicular-treatment-pdq#section/%5F50. Updated July 7, 2016. Accessed September 21, 2017.

Revision Information