One scare story about vasectomy is that it causes prostate cancer. This began when two new studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that men who had a vasectomy more than 20 years earlier faced an 89 percent greater risk of prostate cancer than those who have not undergone the procedure.
Although the studies were scientifically designed, experts say it is still too early to establish a cause and effect relationship. The World Health Organization said more studies are needed before any conclusions can be drawn since three others studies found no relationship between vasectomy and prostate cancer.
Men who undergo vasectomy probably expect it to be a foolproof method of birth control. While this is true in most cases, a vasectomy can sometimes fail for a variety of reasons. In one percent of cases, the severed vas deferens (the two tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the penis) rejoins itself.
And even if the operation is a complete success, unprotected intercourse is not advised for a while since sperm may still be present above the part where the tubes were cut. The best way to be sure about your vasectomy is to have your semen tested for the presence of sperm every now and then.
“The failure rate for a vasectomy is less than one percent. But your vasectomy is no immediate guarantee against pregnancy because of the sperm stored above the part where the vas deferens was cut. Thus, your physician will want to test your ejaculate for sperm. Generally, in most men the semen becomes sperm-free after eight to 10 ejaculations following the vasectomy. Until your physician has determined that your ejaculate does not contain sperm, you should continue to use contraception,” said Dr. David E. Larson, editor-in-chief of the Mayo Clinic Family Health Book.
Can a vasectomy be reversed? Some couples may decide to have children later and may approach the doctor regarding this. Putting back the cut vas deferens is possible but it is a difficult procedure that is not always successful.
Furthermore, the vast majority of men who have their vasectomies reversed cannot father children because their sperm are coated with antibodies which cannot penetrate cervical mucus nor fertilize eggs. For this reason, most doctors consider a vasectomy a permanent procedure.
“It is possible to reattach the vas deferens once it has been severed. Unlike the initial operation, however, the vasovasectomy requires the skill of a surgeon trained to work under the magnification of a powerful microscope. Moreover, this is not an office procedure but requires two to three days in the hospital,” Larson revealed.
“Approximately 80 to 90 percent of men who have their vasectomies reversed do ejaculate sperm. However, only 30 to 40 percent father children after the reversal. The reason for this discrepancy may be that as a result of vasectomy many men develop antibodies that fight their sperm, Larson concluded. (Next: Tubal ligation.)
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