Young Cancer Patients Need Information on Fertility — Even if It's Bad News

Young people with cancer have a lot to contend with, and one major issue is the potential effect of treatment on their fertility. But young female patients say doctors are failing to discuss potential fertility problems with them.

In a new study published in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship, researchers talked to 22 female cancer survivors between 18 and 34. Many of the women hoped to have children one day, but they were frustrated at the lack of information they'd been given about their options. Several said their doctors had never addressed the issue of fertility with them, despite the fact that chemotherapy can destroy eggs and cancer treatment as a whole "can add 10 years to a woman's reproductive age," according to Dr. Michelle Peate, an oncologist not involved in the study. The young cancer survivors recognized that their doctors were trying to keep from overwhelming them by not injecting fertility decisions into an already difficult situation, but they still wished that someone had informed them or their parents about fertility preservation options, including freezing their eggs. They also wished that their different doctors, including those who specialized in fertility or reproductive health, had been more coordinated throughout the treatment process. And several of them felt that any young cancer patient who had passed puberty was old enough for a frank discussion of fertility.

This study jibes with previous research by Dr. Peate, showing that young breast cancer survivors felt insufficiently informed about family planning. Peate found that these women typically wanted all the facts about their fertility — good and bad — when they were diagnosed. And the fact that they didn't always get them gave rise to "feelings of conflict and uncertainty about the decisions they should be making." Peate said, "There are strong arguments, which this research points to, for giving young women fertility related information as part of their cancer treatment to help them make treatment decisions." The new study offers another such argument.

Cancer And Fertility — Young Women Speak Up [Medical Xpress]

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