A survey suggests that many young women who survive cancer don’t understand how tumor treatments affect their reproductive health even though the therapy can trigger infertility.
Researchers focused on 346 women who were around 30 years old and had typically finished cancer treatment about five years earlier.
At the time of the survey, 106 women said they had been told they would not be able to become pregnant or carry a baby to term as a result of their cancer treatment. 21 women said they had taken steps to preserve fertility before treatment such as egg or embryo freezing. 179 women said they maybe or definitely wanted children but didn’t know their fertility status and hadn’t done anything to preserve fertility.
It is difficult to predict with certainty how a woman’s fertility will be affected by the cancer treatment she receives.
Many women maintain fertility after treatment but experience menopause and infertility at an early age, with no certainty about when this may occur.
Among the subset of women unsure about their fertility status about two-thirds said they were concerned that they might not be able to have children in the future. 41% said that it was stressful to think about getting pregnant and 59% reported that they were worried about passing on a genetic risk for cancer.
One limitation of the study is that it was done online and researcher didn’t independently verify participants’ response or medical records.
Regardless, the findings underscore the importance of addressing fertility issues so that cancer patients can make informed decisions about their reproductive options.
Before treatment, women should be made aware about what is known about the drugs or treatments they’re about to receive in terms of likelihood of damage to ovaries and eggs.
Patients should also ask for a referral to a specialist who can discuss the fertility implications of treatment and options to preserve fertility.
Women should have all the facts before they decide what to do next.