A new study has found that very few young women with cancer take steps to preserve their fertility while undergoing cancer therapy. Also, certain groups of young women are more likely to do so than others. Published early online in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the study indicates that efforts are needed to provide counseling on fertility preservation in reproductive-aged women diagnosed with cancer.
More than 120,000 women under 50 years of age are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States. As cancer survival rates are improving, quality of life issues are becoming increasingly more relevant. For example, chemotherapy and other cancer therapies often increase a woman’s risk of becoming infertile and experiencing early menopause, and a woman may regret losing the ability to bear children because of her cancer treatment. With widely available assisted reproductive techniques such as egg or embryo freezing, women who have been diagnosed with cancer have options to improve their chances of conceiving.
To find out which women are taking advantage of these fertility-preserving techniques, Mitchell Rosen, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), led a team that surveyed 1,041 women diagnosed with cancer between the ages of 18 and 40 years. Five cancer types were included: leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, breast cancer, and gastrointestinal cancer. The women were randomly sampled from the California Cancer Registry from 1993 to 2007. A total of 918 women were treated with therapies that could negatively affect their fertility (chemotherapy, pelvic radiation, pelvic surgery, or bone marrow transplant).