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Women with Cancer Uninformed on Options for Having Children Post-Treatment

Posted Nov 21 2012 12:00am
Guest Post by David Cooper

Half of the women who undergo cancer treatment do so without reproductive counseling, according to a study recently published in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship. 

There are several fertility problems that can impair egg supply, leaving pre-menopausal women with improper ovarian functioning or a low ovarian reserve . The methods commonly used for cancer treatment also can cause of infertility, as both chemotherapy and radiation therapy can damage ovarian function and egg supply. 

When some women are diagnosed with cancer they tend to focus on treating the cancer rather than having children or the available DHEA fertility treatments. This is especially true for younger women. Although treating the cancer is of utmost importance, women should be informed about the potential infertility risks and options for assisted reproduction available for them. Despite this, the majority of women who undergo cancer treatment do not receive reproductive counseling.
Researchers from the University of California’s San Francisco School of Medicine conducted a survey of 1,000 women cancer survivors who were under the age of 40 – because women under 40 are generally in the reproductive age, while after a woman turns 40 her chances of reproductively naturally decline. 
The study found that 50 percent of the women surveyed could not recall being given reproductive counseling. Even more shocking was that 88 percent had not been given information of any kind regarding the options for preserving fertility after cancer treatment.
Unbeknownst to many women, there are quite a few options offered for having a genetically related child after radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Women can freeze their eggs, embryos, or ovaries prior to the treatment, and then can later implant them in either their body of a surrogate carrier’s body. However, if women do not plan ahead, they can still have children, but though other assisted reproduction options such as adopting embryos  or egg donations.
The age of the woman, the type and stage of her cancer, and the type of treatment used, all can affect the potential risk of infertility. Although the risks vary, any woman diagnosed with cancer should be informed of the risks and options before it is too late.
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