New Study Shows Young Cancer Patients Do Not Know Their Fertility Options

Pregnant woman

A new study posted in the American Cancer Society’s journal Cancer shows that many young cancer patients may be unaware of ways to preserve their infertility.

Fox News reports that out of the 459 adolescents and young adults diagnosed with cancer between 2007 and 2008, over 70% said that doctors had explained the risk of infertility to them. Despite this, less than 33% of males and 10% of females said they made arrangements for fertility complications.

Young adults and adolescents who undergo cancer treatments are left infertile after the procedure. This can happen in cases where a man must undergo testicular radiotherapy, or if the woman needs surgery to remove the uterus. Some cancer therapies only impact fertility for a short amount of time.

There are many fertility preservation treatment options available for patients, however. Women can have their eggs frozen or stored, and can later have them fertilized by a treatment known as in virto fertilization. This treatment helps fertilization occur outside of the womb, then transfers the embryo back into the uterus for the woman to carry. Men who use gonadal shielding are able to protect their testicles from radiation exposure.

Today, 6.7 million women between the ages of 15 to 44 have impaired fecundity, or impaired ability to get pregnant or carry a baby to term. Despite this, many patients are unaware of any issues they may have with fertility.

The study’s author, Margarett Shnorhavorian, made recommendations to the healthcare industry. She says the study highlights “the need for decreased cost, improved insurance coverage, and partnerships between cancer health care providers and fertility experts to develop strategies that increase awareness of fertility preservation options and decrease delays in cancer therapy as fertility preservation for adolescent and young adult cancer patients improves.”

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