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Fertility Risks Being Discussed with Young Cancer Patients

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fertility preservation and cancer

The importance of educating cancer patients about fertility preservation options has been in the news quite a bit lately, with worries that young men and women aren't getting the information they need about options such as egg freezing or sperm freezing, along with referrals to fertility doctors for care. For example, research has shown that only half of women under 40 diagnosed with breast cancer felt they had adequately discussed fertility preservation options before treatment.

In the past, physicians strictly focused on survival for young cancer patients However, advancements in cancer treatment mean patients today lead long, cancer-free lives. Fertility preservation can lead to improved quality of life for these young cancer patients.

The good news is that a recent study finds that many oncologists are discussing infertility risks with young patients. The bad news? They are referring patients for fertility preservation at a much lower rate. The study was published in Practical Radiation Oncology.

The researchers in this study wanted to determine the fertility preservation discussion and referral patterns among oncology specialists, including medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and surgical oncologists. They asked the physicians if they always/often, sometimes or rarely/never discussed the impact of cancer treatments on future fertility with their patients. the study found:

  • Radiation oncologists always/often discussed fertility 83 percent of the time.
  • Medical oncologists discussed fertility options 84 percent of the time.
  • Surgical oncologists always discussed fertility 51 percent of the time.

When asked about referring patients for fertility preservation, the researchers found:

  • Radiation oncologists reported always/often referring patients 40 percent of the time.
  • Medical oncologists reported always/often referring patients 45 percent of the time.
  • Surgical oncologists reported always/often referring patients 46 percent of the time.

The authors of the study say that the findings are important, particularly for radiation oncologists because their patients have daily interaction with the staff and weekly treatment exams, so there is plenty of opportunity to implement education about fertility preservation in order to improve the patient's quality of life.

For more information on fertility preservation, read

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