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Hope for fertility after childhood cancer

A recent article in the Globe and Mail highlighted the story of Karen Cormier, a woman who developed kidney cancer when she was 5 years old. Cormier, now 39, always assumed that the life-saving treatment that she received to cure her from cancer had ultimately left her infertile.  After two years of trying unsuccessfully to conceive using fertility treatments, she and her husband ended fertility treatment and began the adoption process, which led to adopting their son, Luke. However, three years later, Cormier had the surprise of her life when she found out that she was pregnant! She gave birth to their second son, Ryan, 15 months ago. Cormier’s story provides hope that pregnancy is possible after cancer treatment.

For many children and adolescents diagnosed with cancer, treatments such a chemotherapy and radiation are a mixed blessing –  curing them of the disease but leaving them unable to have a child when they reach adulthood. Infertility is particularly common among adults who previously received pelvic radiation and chemotherapy drugs called alkylating agents. In the past, children and adolescents with cancer rarely survived, so their future fertility was of less concern. Now, with the development of more successful cancer treatments, more are surviving and reaching adulthood when their fertility status becomes important if they want to have children.

A recent study published in The Lancet Oncology found that approximately 60 percent of female cancer survivors who pursued fertility treatments when they were adults became pregnant – a rate that is comparable to other infertile women seeking treatment.

Oncologists and researchers working in the field suggest that when adults who have had childhood cancer are ready to have a child, they should likely see a fertility specialist sooner rather later, in case intervention is necessary.

Read the Lancet Oncology’s study abstract here.

Read more about cancer treatment and fertility here and here. 

To learn more about fertility preservation options before cancer treatment, click here,  here and here.

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