Cancer & Infertility: The Good Part of the Bad News
We've known for a long time now that cancer treatment can save lives but also render survivors infertile, even completely sterile. Young people who were surviving cancer more often found their new lives had a huge gap: little to no chance of being a parent in the future.
Spurred by organizations like Fertile Hope and the Young Survivors Coalition, researchers began focusing on fertility preservation techniques and their usefulness for this population. We've come a long way with what we can offer both men and women who want a chance at family-building after they're cancer-free. (At Houston Fertility Center, we offer a number of these techniques and even have a site devoted just to deferring conception by way of preserving fertility.)
Now, it appears as though the numbers of women with infertility resulting from cancer treatment is bigger than we thought. A large survey study by the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) has concluded that our previous understanding may have given women "unrealistically low assessments of their risks" for infertility.
Some of the salient points of this study:
*Acute ovarian failure (no longer having a menstrual period after chemotherapy) increases significantly with age at cancer diagnosis.
*For women who did not experience loss of menses, incidence of infertility increased significantly with age.
*The younger the woman was when diagnosed with cancer, the higher her chances of early menopause.
Learning that the impact of chemotherapy on fertility is greater than we assumed -- that's the bad news.
The good news? That we now have that knowledge and can let women and their oncologists know that the need for fertility preservation is more prevalent than we used to think.