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Women Get Less Information on Post Cancer Fertility

by Amy Norton ,  chicago tribune | 2012-06-08

Cancer treatment can sometimes lead to infertility, but young women are less likely than young men to be informed of that risk, a new study suggests.

Swedish researchers found that of nearly 500 cancer survivors ages 18 to 45, most men -- 80 percent -- said their doctor had told them their chemotherapy could affect their future fertility.

But only 48 percent of women said the same, the team reports in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

What's more, women were far less likely to have received information about options for preserving their fertility. Only 14 percent said they did, versus 68 percent of men.

That gap, researchers say, is likely related to the fact that preserving fertility is more complicated in women than men, and the techniques for doing so are not as widely available.

But regardless, women should still be informed, said senior researcher Claudia Lampic, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

"Even in cases when fertility preservation could not be performed, patients -- and in particular, women -- should be informed about their risk of decreased fertility and their risk of entering menopause prematurely," Lampic told Reuters Health in an email.

A range of cancer therapies can affect fertility. Some chemotherapy drugs, for instance, can damage a woman's eggs or a man's ability to produce normal sperm.

Radiation therapy near the reproductive organs, or to the brain, can also harm fertility, as can hormonal therapies for breast, prostate and certain other cancers.

"This study is yet (more) evidence of healthcare disparity when it comes to fertility preservation," said Dr. Kutluk Oktay, a post-cancer fertility expert who was not involved in the research.

Other studies have found that cancer patients' likelihood of getting fertility information varies based on where they live, or even by medical center, explained Oktay, who directs the division of reproductive medicine and infertility at New York Medical College in Valhalla.

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