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Few cancer patients offered fertility preservation during treatment

by Colleen O'Connor ,  Denverpost.com | 2013-01-06

Many cancer patients lack counseling when it comes to the fertility problems after treatment. During child-bearing years there are many that receive the cancer diagnosis but the information about preserving their fertility for post-treatment pregnancy does not reach them in time, experts say. Two women were lucky enough to know their options: they froze their embryos and became mothers after cancer treatment.

Jenette Schafer got the chance to have children even if cancer treatment harmed fertility. The Schafer couple is now expecting the birth of their first child, conceived from one of three embryos Jenette had frozen before she began chemotherapy.

According to a recent study, published by the medical journal Cancer, only 61 percent of women ages 18 to 40 were counseled on the risk of infertility because of cancer treatment and just 4 percent pursued fertility preservation.

Many oncologists say they haven't been educated in fertility-preservation options or that they worry about extra stress added onto the burden of a cancer diagnosis.

Choosing fertility preservation: "When you hear about the fertility issue, you think, 'Is cancer not enough?' " said Jenette Schafer. "We're trying to fight cancer, and now you're telling us we have to do all this right now? Just getting your brain around all the things that need to happen is overwhelming."

Yet twenty days after being diagnosed with breast cancer, Janette had surgery. With chemotherapy scheduled to start about 10 weeks after that, the Schafers had little time for in vitro fertilization. They had frozen three embryos successfully. After their cancer ordeal, they are now on their way to parenthood.

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