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Very Few Women Using Egg Freezing Before Cancer Treatment: Study

More than 120,000 women under 50 years of age are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States. And for these women faced with a cancer diagnosis, it is hard to think about anything but survival. The idea of preserving fertility is probably the last thing on a cancer patient's mind, especially if they are not in a relationship and the idea of having children is in the distant future.

A new study published in the journal Cancer found that very few young women take fertility preservation steps such as egg freezing, and it suggests that more effort is needed to provide education and counseling on the subject. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, set out to find which women are taking advantage of fertility-preserving techniques by surveying 1,041 women diagnosed with cancer between the ages of 18 and 40 years.

The researchers included women with leukemia, Hodgkin's disease, Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, breast cancer and gastrointestinal cancer. A total of 918 women were treated with therapies that could negatively affect their fertility, such as chemotherapy, pelvic radiation, pelvic surgery or bone marrow transplant. They found that:

  • 61 percent of women received counseling on the risks of cancer treatment to the fertility from their doctors or other clinicians.
  • Overall only 4 percent of women pursued fertility preservation.
  • The rates of fertility preservation did increase over time — only 1 percent pursued it in 1993, compared to between 6 percent and 10 percent from 2005 to 2007.
  • Women who were childless, younger, Caucasian, heterosexual and who graduated from college were more likely than women from other backgrounds to be counseled abou the risks of cancer treatment to fertility or to preserve fertility before cancer treatment.

The study's authors concluded that while more women are getting counseled regarding cancer treatment risk to fertility, they are not receiving adequate information about their options for fertility preservation at the time of their diagnosis and that there is much opportunity to explore educational and policy interventions to decrease the disparities that exist among different patient populations.

For more information on fertility preservation and cancer, check out:

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