Women are less informed about Post-Cancer Fertility

Women are less informed about Post-Cancer Fertility

May 26, 2012: A new study conducted by researchers of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm has revealed that the young women are hardly informed that the cancer treatment could sometimes lead to infertility as compared to young men.

The researchers from Sweden found that about 80% men out of 500 cancer survivors aged between 18 years and 45 years claimed of being informed about post cancer fertility by their doctors. They said their doctors’ had informed them that chemotherapy could affect their fertility in future. Contrary to this, only 48% women said that they were informed about the post-cancer fertility.

The researchers’ team has also reported that the women were hardly informed about the options for preserving their fertility. The reports in the Journal of Clinical Oncology stated that only 14% of women were informed of measures to preserve their fertility in comparison to 68% of men.

Post-Cancer Fertility

This wide gap is mainly because of the fact that the fertility preservation in women is more complicated as compared to men and there are very less techniques available to do so, according to researchers. Irrespective of all this, the senior researcher Claudia Lampic of the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm said that women should be still informed about post-cancer fertility preservation.

“Even in cases when fertility preservation could not be performed, patients — and in particular, women — should be informed about their risk of decreased fertility and their risk of entering menopause prematurely,” said researcher Lampic.

There is a range of cancer therapies that can affect the fertility. It includes radiation therapy and some chemotherapy drugs. The chemotherapy drugs can cause damage to a woman’s eggs or the ability of man to produce normal sperm, while the radiation therapy conducted near the reproductive organs or to brain can also harm fertility. Also, some hormonal therapies for prostate, breast and certain other cancers can contribute to damaging the fertility.

Dr. Kutluk Oktay, Director of division of reproductive medicine and infertility at New York Medical College in Valhalla, also agreed with researcher Claudia Lampic and said that the wide gap in being informed of post-cancer fertility is mainly related to the differences in the preservation of the male and female fertility.

The sperm of the men can be frozen and banked before the cancer treatment. This process is simple and quick, but has a cost. The sperm banking cost is at the most $1,500 that includes three sperm donation and storage for few years. It is to be noted that fertility preservation for cancer patients are often not covered by the insurance.

On the other hand, women can preserve their fertility by – in vitro fertilization – for creating embryos that can be later frozen and banked. The other method to preserve women fertility is to freeze her eggs or ovarian tissue. However, these techniques are still under experimental phase and there is no clear indication on how well these techniques can work. The cost of women fertility preservation goes from $8,000 to $24,000 and they are rarely available except at sperm banking.

Further, the harvesting of eggs is of concern in women as it usually requires hormonal treatments to stimulate the ovaries. And since the hormonal treatment tends to raise estrogen levels of woman, women with breast or uterine cancer are traditionally not offered embryo or egg freezing. Although there are options available for this process with no boosting in estrogen level, these options are mere patchwork now.

The researchers came up with the current findings on the basis of the study conducted on 484 patients who had received chemotherapy for lymphoma, leukemia or breast cancer, testicular or ovarian cancer from 2003 to 2007.

The team of the Lampic has stated that the scenario might change now due to advances in fertility preservation for female cancer patients. Moreover, American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has recommended the doctors to address the possible fertility problems and also options for fertility preservation to all cancer patients falling under the reproductive age group, before initiating the cancer treatment.

Apart from this, Dr. Oktay and researcher Lampic has advised female cancer patients who wish to have children in future to bring up the post-cancer fertility issue with their doctors and ask them for some fertility preservation methods before being treated if required. “Be proactive, and ask – Will this treatment cause problems with my fertility?’” Dr. Oktay advised.

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