Protecting future fertility is our speciality and priority, and perhaps not surprisingly, it’s not always a priority for other medical professionals. On our travels, we come across cases where it’s obvious that there is still much to be done to ensure that the fertility potential of young women, who are facing serious illness, is protected by the clinical team treating them.
However, in the UK, many cancer patients lose the opportunity of preserving their fertility due to fertility sparing methods, such as egg or embryo freezing, not being offered before surgery, radiation or chemotherapy treatment. Awareness needs to be built amongst clinicians to consider the bigger picture for the female cancer patient and we need to provide women with the tools to demand that their fertility takes a priority in their treatment plans by being offered fertility preservation.
A recent example is of a 29-year old woman who had been diagnosed with cervical cancer and who was facing chemotherapy and radiotherapy. She felt that she hadn’t been suitably informed and supported by the clinical team in the weeks following her diagnosis when it came to protecting her fertility.
When she spoke to Marje at Fertile Matters, she was advised to ask some pertinent questions of her surgeon around fertility sparing and about future outcomes after her treatment. We told her to ask:
- Will my treatment have any short or long-term effect on my ability to have children? If so, what kind of effect and how long is it likely to last?
- Can I protect my future fertility without it affecting my cancer treatment?
- Should I speak with a fertility specialist before treatment?
- How do I find out about my fertility after my treatment, and should I have my fertility tested before the treatment to track the change?
- Will I have to wait before trying to get pregnant after my treatment has finished – and if so, how long?
- Is it possible that my ovaries will be affected so that I lose some or all of my eggs, or go into early menopause?
- Is my treatment likely to increase the probability of pregnancy issues such as miscarriage and premature birth?
We advised her that it was important that she found out pre and post- cancer treatment, about the ways to increase the chance of her being able to conceive, carry and deliver her own child in the future. She felt that, armed with the right questions, she was able to get the answers she needed to secure peace of mind, that her future fertility was seen as a priority for her recovery and getting on with her life after surgery and treatment.