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Cancer Patients Lack Awareness of Fertility Preservation Options

Almost one in three not told cancer treatment might affect future fertility

MONDAY, July 27, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Many young cancer patients — especially females — have limited awareness about options to preserve their fertility, according to a study published online July 27 in Cancer.

Researchers gave questionnaires to 459 adolescents and young adults who were diagnosed with cancer in 2007 or 2008. More than 70 percent were told that cancer treatment may affect their fertility. But males were more than twice as likely as females to say that they discussed options with their doctor. Nearly one-third of males said they made arrangements to preserve their fertility. That rate is four to five times higher than among females, the researchers said.

Other factors that affected the likelihood that patients and doctors would discuss fertility risks or take action to preserve fertility were education level, insurance status, and whether patients already had children. Those least likely to discuss fertility preservation with doctors were those without insurance, those who had children, and males who received treatment that posed little to no risk to their fertility. Among males, those least likely to make fertility preservation arrangements didn’t have a college degree, didn’t have private insurance, or already had children. A similar analysis was not possible for females because too few made fertility preservation arrangements.

The researchers did find that between 2007 and 2008, both male and female patients reported an increase in discussions with doctors about the effects of cancer treatment on fertility and their fertility preservation options. The study highlights “the need for decreased cost, improved insurance coverage, and partnerships between cancer health care providers and fertility experts to develop strategies that increase awareness of fertility preservation options and decrease delays in cancer therapy as fertility preservation for adolescent and young adult cancer patients improves,” study author Margarett Shnorhavorian, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of Washington, Seattle Children’s Hospital, said in a journal news release.

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