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How sperm preservation helps testicular cancer patients

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer for men between the ages of 15 and 44, one that strikes in the prime of life.

Treatment can impact a man's ability to father children, but sperm preservation can protect that ability.

After dating for six years, Kevin and Nancy Dwyer tied the knot last year. What should have been a happy time quickly turned frightening for the couple.

They were just back from their honeymoon when Kevin Dwyer felt a pain in his testicle.  It turned out to be cancer.

"I was not expecting testicular cancer at all. I have never known anyone with testicular cancer I've never heard stories about testicular cancer," Kevin Dwyer said.

Nearly 10,000 men in the United States are diagnosed with testicular cancer each year. It can be treated and often cured with early diagnosis, surgery and chemotherapy. However, those treatments can come with side effects, according to a reproductive urologist, Dr. Ranjith Ramasamy.

"The goal of cancer treatment is to kill the rapidly dividing cells, the cancer cells. But the side effect is that not only do they kill the cancer cells, but they also kill the sperm," Ramasamy said.

This is why Ramasamy promotes sperm preservation. It is something he said patients don't think about when their minds are on lifesaving treatments.

"What are all the changes in my life right now because of treatment? Ao, therefore, the question of fertility preservation, survivorship and having families just get missed," he said.

The Dwyers said they're lucky that at the same time they learned Kevin Dwyer had cancer, Nancy found out she was pregnant with now-10-month-old Trey and that, before Kevin Dwyer underwent treatment, the 29-year-old Coast Guard helicopter pilot decided to freeze his sperm.

He explained: "Nancy comes from a family of six. It's just me and my brother, so we are planning at least to have a brother or sister for Trey."

Now the future looks bright for this young, growing family with Kevin Dwyer back to work and cancer-free.

The cost to store the frozen sperm is around $200 to $300 a year.  And men should remember, just like women do monthly breast exams to catch cancers early, they need to do monthly self-checks, as well, to detect testicular cancer. That's because early diagnosis is key to saving lives.