A couple sees a reproductive specialist for infertility. She gets a complete evaluation and he gets a semen analysis checked. It looks like his semen quality is low and they are recommended to pursue in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) to conceive, the highest level of what is termed “assisted reproduction.” They try this at significant expense and it fails. They try again and it fails again. At this point, the man sees a urologist and, after a proper physical examination, he is told that he has a testis mass and is diagnosed with testis cancer.
The point: Male infertility can be a symptom of another medical condition.
The question: What would have happened to this man if they had successfully conceived with IVF-ICSI?
This scenario is not all that uncommon in our field. And it is why I gladly accepted the invitation to go Washington D.C. and consult with the National Institute of Health (NIH) last fall regarding where government research monies should be spent in the future in the field of male reproductive health. At that meeting, I suggested that we start calling infertility a medical disease, just like any other, and get men the medical care that they deserve. I expect several great grant initiatives to stem from this gathering and was honored to have participated in it.
This scenario is also why I am excited to have been more recently invited to join the Medical Advisory Board of the Cooperative Reproductive Medicine Network at the National Institute for Child Health and Diseases (NICHD) at the NIH. The RMN, established in 1989, is a cooperative effort of seven universities and the government and is charged with conducting and publishing high quality clinical research studies in reproductive medicine. Thankfully, one of the areas of focus is on male infertility. So, I will be taking my “infertility as a disease” mantra to Washington quite a bit this year as I believe scenarios like the case outlined above should never happen in modern medicine.