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Preservation of Fertility in Patients Undergoing Cancer Therapy

Physicians News Digest,  Aug 10, 2010
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Each year, cancer is estimated to occur in 113 per 100,000 women under age 50 in the United States. Treatment of cancer has improved dramatically over the past several years, and it is estimated that 77% of patients under 45 survive at least 5 years. The trend toward delaying childbearing means that many patients will not have had children when they are diagnosed. While there is recognition that cancer therapy can affect a patient’s fertility, less than 25% of oncologists inform their patients about their risks and options.

Chemotherapy or radiation therapy for malignant and nonmalignant diseases often results in premature ovarian failure and infertility. One of the strongest predictors of emotional well being in cancer survivors, besides sexual function, appearance, and employability, is feeling healthy enough to be a good parent. Cancer survivors are often fearful that their history of cancer or its treatment will have an adverse impact on their offspring by placing them at risk for malignancy, congenital anomalies, or impaired growth and development. They are also concerned about the risks of cancer recurrence, infertility, miscarriage, and achieving a successful pregnancy outcome.

Despite these concerns, surveys have reported that fewer than 60 percent of respondents had received information about fertility after cancer treatment. There are several methods to preserve fertility in women diagnosed with cancer.

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