Coping with Cancer

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Baby after testicular cancer?

Sept 2008

My husband had testicular cancer 2 yrs. ago and is considered cured. We thought we were done having kids so didn't bank any sperm. Well, now we're having second thoughts and considering having another baby. We're concerned about the health of the sperm after 8 wks. of radiation, but no chemo. And then there's the fact that he's in his mid-40s and I'm closing in on 40. Anyone else had a similar experience? We'd love your input. Many thanks in advance. Not Sure

A friend of mine had testicular cancer (radiation, no chemo) and now has two daughters. The first was conceived just before he had treatment and the second two years after. He and his wife had no difficulty getting pregnant at all and the girls are perfectly healthy. He was 30 at the time of his cancer, though, and that might make a difference. Good luck to you! Lupine

My husband was diagnosed with testicular cancer about a year and a half ago, when our first-born was 3-months old. He had the orchiectomy surgery and we had to wait several months to find out if he needed to do chemo or radiation. We were pretty shell-shocked and had always assumed we'd try for a second child when our first was around 2 yrs. old. I spent those months we were waiting researching what you have asked. In a nutshell, I found that it was advised not to even try to get pregnant for a minimum of one year after radiation treatment. The literature I found said that after one year, radiation (and chemo, for that matter) in this instance may affect sperm count but not necessarily the quality of the sperm (meaning an increased risk for birth defects or mutation in the sperm.) Our oncologists told us the same thing.

You may want to consult your oncologist and your OB/GYN to see what they recommend, especially because every case is different and it may vary depending on the amount of radiation used, etc. Being close to 40 may also present different circumstances.

Also, just fyi - different situation but encouraging nonetheless - my friend had thyroid cancer and went through some rigorous radiation treatment. She just gave birth to a very happy, healthy and cute baby boy! anonymous

My husband had testicular cancer, too. He underwent chemotherapy as it turned out to have spread. That was five years ago. We did bank some sperm since we still wanted a family, but ended up not using any of it. My husband's sperm turned out to be fine just low in number. Therefore, we had to go ahead with in-vitro. At the clinic, they suggested an ixsy (sp?), which means that a sperm is manually (with a syringe) placed into the egg. That is done when the sperm count is so low that there is great doubt any of the little guys will make it in time. Ten months later, we had a beautiful little girl, as I was 36 and my husband turned 41. My advice is to get his sperm tested as well as yourself (for fibroids). If everything is fine, you can reevaluate your future plans. Hope this helps. Anan

An excellent website about cancer and fertility that might help you figure out your options: anon

I'd say that your best advice will be from a doctor. Getting a sperm count and a check on mobility. As far as the chemo treatment...sperm are continually generated with a new group of sperm after I believe a few weeks. (There is a monthly hormonal cycle that is coordinated with sperm production and the highest amount of sperm produced.) Much like a woman's hormonal monthly cycle. It is a lot like a factory, constant generation of millions of sperm. Sperm that are not ever ''used'' are broken down into the genetic material and ''recycled.'' To find out information about how sperm are made you can do some research on line with key terms of ''sperm production'' and'' human male reproduction.'' I really think that it depends on what was found out and done during the cancer, how the hormone cycle was effected and several other factors. Best wishes, Rachel -has a BA in Biology

Partner has been diagnosed with rectal cancer

March 2008

my partner has recently been diagnosed with rectal cancer. we are looking for references from anyone who has been treated with alternative therapies and has providers to recommend. thank you!

There is a Chinese healing center in San Anselmo called Pine Street that specalizes in cancer recovery. Here is the weblink with the contact information. Stacy

Several lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of rectal cancer and prevent its recurrence. The links between diet, weight, and exercise and colorectal cancer risk are some of the strongest for any type of cancer.

1. Obesity increases the risk of rectal cancer (and its recurrence after treatment). So, lose weight.
2. Physical inactivity increases the risk. Exercise.
3. Alcohol use increases the risk. Limit alcohol use.
4. Smoking increases the risk. Quit smoking.
5. A diet low in vegetables increases the risk. Consume more vegetables.
6. Type-2 diabetes increases the risk. Lose weight and exercise to improve the type-2 diabetes.

If rectal cancer is already present, alternative treatments have not been shown to reverse it. However, once it has been surgically removed, then dietary changes listed above (plus exercise) can be started to prevent its recurrence.

There is no evidence that other ''treatments'' such as homeopathy, acupuncture, herbs, colonics, etc. can prevent or cure any type of colorectal cancer. Pro-active

When my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he saw (and still sees) a wonderful acupuncturist, named Robert Levine, who lives and works in North Berkeley. In my husbands case he did both herbs and acupuncture, and allopathic treatment as well. I highly recommend Bob Levine, who has a lot of experience with cancer, and many other things as well. Wish you the best. mirsun

How important is it to get regular skin cancer screenings?

Nov 2006

I'm curious as to how many people actually follow what seems to be a common recommendation for people to see a dermatologist annually to be screened for skin cancer. How important is this? Given the HMOs and authorization process most of us face, is this something that many people do? How long do you have to wait to get an appointment? Are there many dermatologists in the various HMO networks to choose from?

I had to see a dermatologist for something several years back and there was only one doctor to see and at the time I had to wait for 3 months to get an appointment. I'm curious as to whether things have improved and whether such a screening is viewed as good preventative medicine or the frivolous indulgence of a hypochondriac. anonymous

I do see a dermatologist annually, as I have very fair skin and lots of freckles and moles, with a personal history of severe sunburns when I was a teen. So I suppose some of it depends on your personal risk factors. But I have also been told by a family practice doc to just do my own skin check, monthly, using a mirror for my I suppose that would be an alternative. anon

Each one in my family sees a dermatologist for skin check every year, regularly. We call on the phone to our primary physician to request a referral and make an appointment. We never had a problem in scheduling it - and our doctors never question it - just fax a referral to our dermatologist. We choose the time of the year for which we'd prefer our appointments and schedule them ahead of time to make it easy. I always make a double- appointment for my two children, for example, so that I can show them to the doctor within one trip. We're with Blue Shield HMO btw. Maria

Well as a very fair skinned person who has had several basal cell carcinomas removed I highly reccommed an annual, if not bi- annual, screening. As for the Dermos, I used to have a fair selection with Health Net, then my retirement package switched me to another HMO and my selection is the pits. I am more comfortable seeking women Docs and there is ONLY ONE now in the entire east bay area (and I'm not thrilled with her) There were two others who I was seeing, but they both have left (gee, I wonder why). I've been informed, and it's apparent, that since I spent a great deal of time in the sun in my crazy youth that I will continue to have actinic keratoses,etc. I get checked every year and have ANY irregular mole removed. If something comes up prior to that yearly visit, I make an appointment right away and always mention that I've had basal cell cancer in the past. Years ago I belonged to Kaiser. I had 2 red dots (chest & forehead). They continued to grow and I went to the dermos. They froze them off and said that it was probably excema. Over the course of 2 years I went back 3 times and was always told the same. I left Kaiser and the new doc referred me to a dermotologist within 2 weeks. They were confirmed as basal cell and were now so big that I had to have outpatient surgery. Since you have had some cancers why take a risk. Find a dermo, then because of your history tell them you want to be checked on a regular basis. sun screen queen

You should get a skin cancer screening if you've had a lot of sunburns, have a lot of moles, or a family history of skin cancer. I saw my dermatologist because I saw some brown spots that appeared to have darkened and my primary care doc had seen something she was concerned about. I went to my visit not sure what to expect. But my dermatologist was awesome at the exam, explaining things and offering some really great suggestions about skin products. I see her yearly for check-ups. Her name is Paige Radell and she is in Oakland. I waited for about 2 weeks and it was so worth it!!!! Incidentally, the thing my primary was worried about was nothing, but Dr. Radell found something precancerous. Her office number is 763-2662. satisfied patient

I saw a dermatologist recently at Kaiser Oakland because a good friend of mine just passed away from melanoma last spring at the age of 39. I made an appointment right away. I had to go to my general practitioner first and she got me a derm appt two weeks later. I did not have to wait long. The dermatologist was great. Told me I could make an appt with him anytime without needing to go through my gen practitioner. He didn't tell me to come for regular screenings. Go see a dermatologist (with Kaiser it's not a problem) and they will tell you if you need regular screeings or not, which should depend on your past sun exposure and family history. I say better safe than sorry because if they catch a melanoma early, you have a fighting chance, unlike my friend who had no insurance at the time and had his first melanoma mole removed too late. Anon

I have seen a dermatologist for a yearly skin cancer screening for five years now, after I had a small pre-cancer lesion removed. I do not think it's a waste of time, nor do I consider myself a hypochondriac. Skin cancer is a real, painful, and quick killer. I do not ever want to have a malignant melanoma, and my understanding is that regular yearly skin checks can often detect pre-cancers and even some cancers at early stages, well before they turn deadly. I am of the skin type that is most at risk, so that is another factor that leads me to take this kind of prevention seriously. I used to see a dermatologist who scheduled these visits six months in advance, and had a horrible waiting time for regular apts. So I switched. You can too, although it might take some effort to find a doctor who works with you HMO. Ask around, and I bet you'll find someone. I have to note, too, a bit of sarcasm and judgementalism about this prevetative measure in the tone of your message. What's that about? Do you consider monthly breast exams a waste of time and the product of hypochondria? How about wearing sunscreen when you're outside? How about brushing your teeth or flossing? The fact is, there are many things we do to protect our health, and not all of them are crazy. This becomes especially true after you pass the age of 40. But cancer can afflict people of all ages. If you are in a group at risk (and your doctor will tell you if you are or not), then what's the problem about being careful? anon

I try to see a derm once a year for skin cancer screening. I know some people who have never gone though and that's their decision. Both of my parents have had pre-cancerous skin things removed and are both under the watchful eye of a derm on a regular basis so I know this is in my family and am hyper about getting checked. The scary thing about skin cancer is that a spot can turn deadly very quickly and you can be dead in 6 months because the cancer can spread so quickly (you can't remove your skin the way you can other organs that contract cancer). One thing I did find out recently though is that my general doctor can do a screen for me during a regular check up (she said to just mention that I needed it done when making my appointment). So apparently you don't need to see a derm to have a basic screen done (if your general is trained). Then what happens is if my dr. finds something suspicious she'll send me on to see a derm. Cancer wary

It was recommended to me a few years ago--when i had a basal cell carcinoma removed--to get an annual skin check. i have blue shield hmo and go to doctors in the hill physicians group. there are plenty of dermatologists i can go to, and all i pay for is the copay. i do have to have a formal referral from my primary care physician. i don't think it's frivolous. my father and grandmother have had numerous skin cancers removed over the years.