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Cancer and Fertility - Young Women Speak Up

Author: Springer

Published: 2012-01-10

Synopsis and Key Points:

Young cancer survivors are less likely to have biological children than non-cancer survivors mainly due to the effects of cancer treatments on future fertility.

Main Digest

Young female cancer survivors express their concerns and frustrations about the impact of both their disease, and its treatment, on their future fertility.

Cancer - Also called malignancy, is characterized by an abnormal growth of cells. There are more than 100 types of cancer, including breast cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and lymphoma.Cancer symptoms vary widely based on the type of cancer. Cancer treatment includes chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.

Young female cancer survivors are concerned about their future fertility and parenthood options and want better information and guidance early on, according to a new study by Jessica Gorman and her team from the University of California in the US. Their paper, which presents in-depth information on young survivors' experiences navigating decisions about fertility and parenthood, is published online in Springer's Journal of Cancer Survivorship.

Many more adolescents and young adults are surviving their disease, resulting in a substantial and growing number of female cancer survivors of reproductive age. Young cancer survivors are less likely to have biological children than non-cancer survivors, mainly due to the effects of cancer treatments on future fertility. However, many are unaware of the impact of their treatment on their fertility, and understanding these young ladies' concerns is a first step towards developing effective, targeted interventions that will meet the needs of those who want to become parents.

The researchers explored the fertility and parenthood concerns of 22 American female cancer survivors, aged between 18 and 34 years. The young women, recruited from both clinics and community-based outreach projects, took part in focus groups.

The authors identified six themes from the discussions:

Gorman and team conclude; "It's critical for both researchers and clinicians to understand young female survivors' concerns about fertility and parenthood in order to address them adequately. Our results suggest that these young women would benefit from improved information regarding their options, through discussions initiated by their healthcare providers, better coordination of care in survivorship, and guidance and support in navigating both emotional and practical issues that arise when considering fertility and future parenthood."

Reference:

Gorman JR et al (2011). How do you feel about fertility and parenthood? The voices of young female cancer survivors. Journal of Cancer Survivorship. DOI 10.1007/s11764-011-0211-9

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