A UK Charity has found that 5,000 young breast cancer patients are not being offered treatments to preserve their fertility.
Survival rates for breast cancer are increasing consistently and the majority of women will survive their chemotherapy, but the treatments can damage ovaries and even bring on early menopause. That’s why clinical guidelines state that patients should consider freezing eggs or embryos to preserve their fertility in case they wish to conceive after completing their treatment.
Breast Cancer Care spoke to 50 breast cancer specialists and 176 women who had been diagnosed before the age of 45. Over a third of the specialists interviewed said that they did not discuss fertility at all during the diagnosis, and 88% of women surveyed said that they were not referred for fertility care.
Based on these figures, Breast Cancer Care has estimated that around 5,000 women throughout the UK miss out on fertility referrals every year, even though their cancer treatments can have an adverse effect on fertility after the treatment and later in life.
Samia al Qadhi, Chief Executive of the charity, said that, ‘there are two clear reasons for this: many healthcare professionals are not discussing fertility options and clear referral systems are not in place. We urgently need all healthcare professionals to talk to women about their fertility options at the point of diagnosis.”
As part of the study, the charity also found that over half of the female public are unaware of the possible effects of cancer treatment on fertility.
Making fertility referrals following a breast cancer diagnosis is acknowledged as medical best practice. While focussing on treatment and remission is important, preparing for life after cancer is essential, particularly when it comes to something as important as fertility.