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Young Female Cancer Survivors Need More Information On Fertility Preservation

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Although young female cancer survivors are concerned about their fertility during and after treatment, new research suggests that most of them find it difficult to undergo preservation procedures.

One reason could be that many survivors do not receive proper information about fertility preservation and the possibilities that come with it.

With that, experts are urging for better reproductive health counseling to help survivors in making educated decisions.

The Effects Of Cancer Treatment To Female Patients

Statistics show that about one in every 47 young women will be diagnosed with an invasive cancer.

But even when cancer treatments are successful, they are incredibly toxic, particularly to women's reproductive system.

Researchers say that during cancer treatments, women's fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix and uterus have the potential to become damaged. Their menstrual periods could also become irregular.

Because of that, most cancer survivors face risk of early menopause, or even when periods continue, the fertility decreases.

Additionally, infertility as a result of treatments may either be permanent or temporary. It may occur months after or almost immediately. It depends on different factors such as age, the type of cancer, the dose and type of chemotherapy, and the dose and direction of radiation treatments.

Some young women who have understood the risks of infertility try to preserve their fertility. Two common methods are the following: freezing embryos and freezing eggs.

Others undergoing radiation may choose a procedure where doctors remove ovaries to a different place in the body - away from harmful rays of the treatment.

Answering The Questionnaire

A team of researchers in New York set out to determine whether there is an information gap about fertility preservation among young women.

They surveyed 346 young female cancer survivors who were aged 30 years old on average. Of the participants, 56 women went through pre-treatment for fertility preservation, four women went through post-treatment, while three women tried but failed post-treatment.

Researchers then focused on a separate subgroup of survivors whose fertility status were uncertain. All 179 women had not undergone fertility preservation although they either wanted to or felt unsure about having children in the future.

In the end, experts found the following:
- 58 percent of the subgroup of survivors admitted they did not have enough information on the risk for infertility;
- 60 percent said they did not know about the menopause risk;
- 62 percent did not know about options to assess fertility;
- 51 percent did not know about options to preserve fertility;
- and 43 percent did not know enough about alternative options.

Some of the survivors described the potential loss of fertility as being almost as painful as the cancer diagnosis, said Dr. Catherine Benedict, lead author of the study. This is why it's very crucial to supply women with the necessary information so they can preserve their fertility if they wish.

With that, researchers ended their report by urging for an increase in information sharing, emphasizing that detailed information resources would make genuine impact on the lives of young women cancer survivors.

The details of the report are published in the journal Cancer.

Photo: Sheila Sund | Flickr

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