CBS news reports on the fertility possibilities after cancer and what it means for young people who often do not know the answer.
Many young people fear the possibility that cancer or its treatment will leave them unable to have children. There are many ways to help young cancer patients preserve their fertility that they do not know about according to a new study.
The report, which was published on Monday in the journal Cancer, finds that young girls specifically might not receive enough information before treatments have already curtailed their options.
Dr. Nicole Noyes, reproductive endocrinologist and director of the fertility program at NYU Langone's Fertility Center, commented on the study. She said, “It's a brave new world, fertility preservation. We've got to get the word out to more oncologists.”
“A cascade of decisions and treatments usually follows a cancer diagnosis, often starting within days if the cancers are aggressive. Because of the accelerated timing, many young patients may not have an opportunity for detailed discussions about their fertility before chemotherapy or radiation,” according to CBS news.
The researchers took a survey of 459 teen and young adult cancer patients, recruited from seven different registries across the United States. They were asked what counseling and strategies they had received from doctors about the possibility of preserving the ability to have children after cancer treatment.
What were the results?
The analysis showed around 70 percent reported learning that cancer treatment could make them infertile, and only 31 percent of males used fertility-preserving options and only 6.8 percent of females did that.
Lead author Dr. Margarett Shnorhavorian of the University of Washington, Seattle Children's Hospital commented on the study. She said, “The access and health-related reasons for not making arrangements for fertility preservation reported by participants in this study further highlight the need for decreased cost, improved insurance coverage, and partnerships between cancer healthcare providers and fertility experts.”
What are the timing and cost predictions like?
According to researchers, cancer diagnoses for adolescent and young adult patients often leads to immediate treatment, which presents a big challenge for preserving fertility in these young people. Many patients who are in their teens are diagnosed in emergency rooms because they are already extremely ill.
What young cancer patients do have on their side is their biological clock, because young men have generally robust sperm and young women have a large reserve of eggs in their ovaries. As long as the treatment does not include radiation to the pelvic or abdominal areas or the strongest forms of chemotherapy, their normal production processes may continue. Though for young women, continuing to menstruate may not mean their fertility has been preserved, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
However researchers say there is a big difference in the process of preserving fertility between young men and young women. Boys can provide sperm samples in an office or anywhere any time, as long as they have reached puberty and have mature sperm to contribute. But women have to go through a whole medical procedure and possibly delay needed treatment.
Dr. Noyes said, “The two disciplines involved in such treatments -- oncology and fertility -- may need better coordination. Oncologists may not have updated information on what's shown to be effective as fertility treatments advance,” according to CBS.