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Lancet. 1979 Feb 10;1(8111):285-9.

Cyclical combination chemotherapy and gonadal function. Retrospective study in males.


The effect of cyclical chemotherapy on fertility and gonadal function was investigated in seventy-four male patients who had been treated for advanced Hodgkin's disease. All patients were azoospermic after therapy, and, with a median follow-up period of 27 months (range 1--62 months), only four patients have regained spermatogenesis. Testicular biopsy showed an absence of germinal epithelium without other gross architectural changes. Despite this high degree of infertility, 60% of patients were practising contraception. A decline in libido and sexual performance with frequent long periods of sexual inactivity was noted by most men during therapy. Although some recovery was apparent once therapy was stopped, this was incomplete in approximately half of the patients. Follicle-stimulating-hormone levels were consistently raised after therapy at all periods of study. Median luteinising-hormone levels were at, or just above, the upper limit of normal, and median testosterone levels were normal. Increased prolactin levels were noted in 42% of patients, of whom about a half had an identifiable cause for hyperprolactinaemia. Return of spermatogenesis could not be predicted by serial hormone assessment. Because of the guaranteed infertility and the low frequency and unpredictability of recovery of spermatogenesis, sperm storage should be available for male patients undergoing cytotoxic therapy, since most of these patients may enjoy prolonged survival. Hormone-replacement therapy will usually be unnecessary. However, the probability of major changes in libido and sexual performance should be discussed with patients so that additional stress can be avoided. Contraceptive advice should be available to those who require it.

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