New Guidelines Help Preserve Fertility After Cancer Treatment

It's a common problem for both male and female patients

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FRIDAY, May 5, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Experts have issued new clinical guidelines for a troubling issue: helping to preserve fertility in individuals who must undergo cancer therapy.

Cancer and cancer treatment can make it difficult for cancer survivors to conceive a child or maintain a pregnancy. Both women and men can suffer temporary or permanent infertility due to treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy to the pelvic area, or surgery.

The new American Society of Clinical Oncology guidelines make the following recommendations:

  • Discussion about infertility as a potential risk of cancer therapy should be initiated with patients of childbearing age as early as possible after diagnosis.
  • Physicians should identify whether the patient is at risk for treatment-induced infertility and should discuss with the patient their concerns about infertility and interest in fertility preservation, as well as available treatment options, and the best time to undergo fertility preservation measures, before beginning cancer treatment.
  • Patients interested and eligible for fertility preservation should be referred to reproductive specialists to facilitate decision-making and fertility treatment planning.

"It is important for doctors and cancer patients to determine the threat cancer treatment may have on reproduction as early as possible, since many of the fertility preservation options require time to perform before cancer therapy begins. An early discussion will give the patient the most fertility preservation options," guideline lead author Dr. Stephanie Lee, an associated member at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, said in a prepared statement.

She and her colleagues on the expert panel concluded the two methods of fertility preservation with the highest likelihood of success in cancer patients are embryo cryopreservation for women and sperm cryopreservation for men. Embryo cryopreservation involves the harvesting of eggs, followed by in vitro fertilization and freezing of embryos for later use. Sperm cryopreservation is the freezing and storing of sperm for later use.

The guidelines are to be published in the June 20 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

More information

The American Cancer Society has information about how cancer affects a patient's sex life and fertility.

SOURCE: American Society of Clinical Oncology, news release, May 1, 2006

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