Awareness of Fertility Preservation Options Low Among Young Cancer Patients

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Foxx_060115Some cancer treatments can adversely impact fertility in adolescents and young adults—but there are fertility preservation options available for these patients.

However, according to a new study published in a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society called Cancer; researchers at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital suggest that actual awarenessof these fertility preservation options may be low, especially with women.

In the study, 459 young adults who were diagnosed with cancer between 2007 and 2008 completed questionnaires. According to the results, 70% of patients reported that their health care providers educated them about the fertility risks associated with cancer treatment. Fertility preservation was discussed with men two times more often than with women. Men were also four to five times more likely than women to make arrangements for fertility preservation.

American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) guidelines recommend that oncologists discuss infertility risk with cancer patients of reproductive age. Doctors should also refer patients for fertility preservation consultations.

Study authors note, “Despite these guidelines, referrals are inconsistently made, even at large multidisciplinary institutions, and many reproductive-age patients still initiate treatment without discussion of, or opportunity for, fertility preservation.”

Among women and men, factors that lead to a lack of fertility preservation discussions include lack of insurance, raising children, and patients with low fertility risk. Men without a college degree, lack of private medical insurance, or men raising children were also less likely to arrange fertility preservation.

Available fertility preservation options include embryo cryopreservation for women—a procedure that harvests eggs from the ovaries (they are fertilized with in vitro fertilization before being frozen and stored.) Men typically consider gonadal shielding or sperm cryopreservation.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Shnorhavorian, et al., “Fertility preservation knowledge, counseling, and actions among adolescent and young adult patients with cancer: a population-based study,” Cancer, published online July 27, 2015, doi: 10.1002/cncr.29328.
“Many Young Cancer Patients May Have Limited Awareness of Fertility Preservation Options,” Wiley web site, July 27, 2015;
“Awareness of fertility preservation options among younger cancer patients may be low,” Medical News Today web site, July 27, 2015;
“Fertility preservation: Understand your options before cancer treatment,” Mayo Clinic web site, Feb. 8, 2014;