Fertility, gonadal and sexual function in survivors of testicular cancer

R A Huddart, A Norman, C Moynihan, A Horwich, C Parker, E Nicholls, D P Dearnaley
British Journal of Cancer 2005 July 25, 93 (2): 200-7
Modern treatments cure most testicular cancer patients, so an important goal is to minimise toxicity. Fertility and sexual functioning are key issues for patients. We have evaluated these outcomes in a cross-sectional study of long-term survivors of testicular cancer. In total, 680 patients treated between 1982 and 1992 completed the EORTC Qly-C-30(qc30) questionnaire, the associated testicular cancer specific module and a general health and fertility questionnaire. Patients have been subdivided according to treatment received: orchidectomy either alone (surveillance, S n = 169), with chemotherapy (C, n = 272), radiotherapy (R, n = 158), or both chemotherapy and radiotherapy (C/RT n = 81). In the surveillance group, 6% of patients had an elevated LH, 41% an elevated FSH and 11% a low (< 10 nmol l(-1)) testosterone. Hormonal function deteriorated with additional treatment, but the effect in general was small. Low testosterone was more common in the C/RT group (37% P = 0.006), FSH abnormalities were more common after chemotherapy (C 49%, C/RT 71% both P < 0.005) and LH abnormalities after radiotherapy (11% P < 0.01) and chemotherapy (10%, P < 0.001). Baseline hormone data were available for 367 patients. After treatment, compared to baseline, patients receiving chemotherapy had significantly greater elevations of FSH (median rise of 6 (IQR 3-9.25) iu l(-1) compared to 3 (IQR 1-5) iu l(-1) for S; P < 0.001) and a fall (compared to a rise in the surveillance group) in median testosterone levels (-2 (IQR -8.0 to -1.5) vs 1.0. (IQR -4.0-4.0) P < 0.001). Patients with low testosterone (but not elevated FSH) had lower quality of life scores related to sexual functioning on the testicular cancer specific module and lower physical, social and role functioning on the EORTC Qly C-30. Patients with a low testosterone also had higher body mass index and blood pressure. Treatment was associated with reduction in sexual activity and patients receiving chemotherapy had more concerns about fathering children. In total, 207 (30%) patients reported attempting conception of whom 159 (77%) were successful and a further 10 patients were successful after infertility treatment with an overall success rate of 82%. There was a lower overall success rate after chemotherapy (C 71%; CRT 67% compared to S 85% (P = 0.028)). Elevated FSH levels were associated with reduced fertility (normal FSH 91% vs elevated 68% P < 0.001). In summary, gonadal dysfunction is common in patients with a history of testicular cancer even when managed by orchidectomy alone. Treatment with chemotherapy in particular can result in additional impairment. Gonadal dysfunction reduces quality of life and has an adverse effect on patient health. Most patients retain their fertility, but the risk of infertility is likely to be increased by chemotherapy. Screening for gonadal dysfunction should be considered in the follow-up of testicular cancer survivors.

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