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Fertility preservation neglected at most cancer centres

Chemotherapy and radiation treatments often have a devastating effect on a patient’s fertility – effectively rendering him or her unable to produce a child in the future. Undergoing fertility preservation prior to cancer treatments can provide some insurance that they may have a chance to contribute to a pregnancy in the future.

Unfortunately, a recent study published in the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, suggests that, with their focus on providing treatment to help people survive cancer, many centres may not be adequately helping their cancer patients preserve their fertility. Conducted in the United States, the study found that only 4 of the 33 national comprehensive cancer centres surveyed had policies that included providing fertility preservation information to patients prior to undergoing cancer treatments. 20 of the sites had some fertility preservation services onsite and 8 of the sites referred patients to programs off site. Only 8 of the centres had staff whose jobs included talking with patients about their fertility and helping them preserve their future fertility.

Infertility is consistently cited as one of the most distressing long-term side effects of cancer treatments for both male and female adolescents and young adults. Services dedicated to helping patients decide about, and access fertility preservation prior to treatment, are critical. Survival rates for adolescent and young adults with cancer are steadily increasing. This means that more cancer patients can look forward to life after cancer, which for many includes having a family. As Marla Clayman, PhD, MPH and lead researcher of the study at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University says:

“When you think about having children after cancer, that’s a very strong way to think about surviving and thriving after cancer…It’s not just that you want to live, it’s that you want to live a life as close as possible to what you could have without cancer.”

The study concluded that, although many centres provide exemplary cancer care, most need to better integrate information and referral about fertility preservation into their cancer care services.

Read more about fertility preservation and cancer treatment herehere and here.

Read more about the study here.

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