Fertility Concerns Impact Breast Cancer Therapy

Researchers say doctor-patient communication would help

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FRIDAY, Oct. 15, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Concerns about infertility resulting from breast cancer therapy influenced treatment decisions in nearly one-third of young patients, according to a study published in the Oct. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The study also found that a majority of the women were very concerned about the ability to have a child, as well as the impact that pregnancy might have on disease recurrence.

"These findings indicate that women may overestimate infertility risk, and highlight the need for enhanced communication between physicians and patients," lead author Dr. Ann H. Partridge, a medical oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, said in a statement.

The researchers surveyed 657 members of the Young Survival Coalition, a breast cancer patient advocacy group, on their attitudes about fertility.

Fifty-seven percent reported being very concerned about becoming infertile, and 29 percent said that concern influenced their decisions about treatment.

Nearly three in four women discussed fertility issues with their doctors, and 17 percent went further and asked questions of fertility experts.

Half the women felt satisfied after talking with their doctors, but a quarter of them didn't feel their concerns had been properly addressed.

"A key challenge in discussing these issues is the lack of comprehensive data on how cancer therapy affects fertility, particularly when considering newer chemotherapy regimens, and whether getting pregnant after therapy affects the risk of disease recurrence," Partridge said.

More information

The National Cancer Institute has more about breast cancer and pregnancy.

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Oncology, news release, Oct. 12, 2004

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