The care for young women needing cancer treatment which could damage their chances of having children needs to be improved, researchers say.
Sperm banking is widely available for post-pubertal male cancer patients but options for females remain limited. Anecdotal evidence suggests that fertility issues may be inadequately discussed with females.
To understand the experience of both sexes in the UK, surveys of young cancer survivors were performed seven years apart.
Data were collected from young cancer survivors aged over 13 years at diagnosis, attending support group conferences held in 2004 and 2011. Data were collected anonymously using remote handsets in response to questions projected on the screen during plenary sessions.
A total of 81 female and 69 males responded in 2004, and 69 females and 71 males in 2011. In both years, most males reported fertility discussions taking place before treatment started and they were generally satisfied with it. However in both years, fewer females recall a discussion about fertility and they were generally less satisfied. Although in 2011 more females reported a fertility discussion prior to the beginning of treatment, they were no more satisfied than the females in 2004 whose fertility discussion were more likely to take place after treatment had started.
Whilst male cancer survivors in the UK are generally satisfied about the frequency and timing of discussions about fertility, females are not. Although in 2011 fertility discussions with females more often took place before treatment began, they were no more satisfied than females in 2004. This may reflect the approach by professionals or the absence of effective fertility preservation strategies for them.
- Read Call for better cancer fertility care for young women, by James Gallagher, Health and science reporter, BBC News, 20 July 2013.
- Read Discussing fertility preservation at the time of cancer diagnosis: Dissatisfaction of young females, Pediatric Blood and Cancer. July 2013.