Few Young Women With Cancer Pursue Fertility Preservation

Socioeconomic, racial, and demographic disparities affect access to fertility preserving services

MONDAY, March 26 (HealthDay News) -- Few women with cancer diagnosed before age 40 take steps to preserve their fertility during treatment, according to a study published online March 26 in Cancer.

To investigate the relationship between sociodemographic characteristics and utilization of fertility preservation services, Joseph M. Letourneau, M.D., of the University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine, and colleagues examined the responses of 1,041 female cancer survivors to a retrospective survey. The women were diagnosed with cancer (leukemia, Hodgkin's disease, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, breast cancer, and gastrointestinal cancer) between the ages of 18 and 40 years. Nine hundred eighteen women reported receiving treatment which potentially affected their fertility (chemotherapy, pelvic radiation, pelvic surgery, or bone marrow transplant).

The researchers found that 61 percent of the women received counseling from the oncology team on the risk of cancer treatment to fertility. Fertility preservation was pursued by 4 percent of women. Counseling was less likely in those who had not attained a bachelor's degree (odds ratio [OR], 0.7). Possible disparities in access to fertility preservation were seen for those older than 35 years (OR, 0.1) or those with children at diagnosis (OR, 0.3). Disparities based on ethnicity and sexual orientation were also seen.

"Sociodemographic health disparities likely affect access to fertility preservation services," the authors write. "Although awareness of fertility preservation has improved in the past decade, an unmet need remains for reproductive health counseling and fertility preservation in reproductive age women diagnosed with cancer."

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