Young female cancer survivors are not being told whether treatment will affect their ability to bear children, according to new research.

Women who wish to have children, but are not yet ready to start a family, often have to undergo fertility preservation with egg or embryo freezing after treatment.

However women are not being given adequate information about their fertility as part of their survivorship care following treatment – despite many having concerns about their ability to bear children in the future.

Female cancer sufferers are also at risk of early menopause and as a result have a shorter reproductive timeline.

Recent findings by US researchers have suggested that better resources are needed to ensure survivors make informed decisions about their reproductive options once treatment is completed.

In order to better understand the information gap, a team led by Catherine Benedict, of Northwell Health, Joanne Kelvin and Bridgette Thom, of Memorial Sloan Kettering asked survivors to complete a web-based anonymous survey.

In the study 346 participants, who had completed cancer treatment five years prior to the investigation, were assessed – with special focus on 179 women who had not undergone fertility treatment.

The women were, on average, 30 years old.

Across fertility topics, 43 to 62 per cent reported that their information needs had not been met and two-thirds of women were worried about their ability to have future children.

Two-thirds of women also wanted more advice about the decision to preserve their fertility and one- third wanted more support in the decision making process.

Dr Benedict said: “The potential loss of fertility has been described in the literature as being almost painful, if not more so, than the cancer diagnosis itself.

“Failure to provide information and address concerns with respect to fertility-related decisions may have lasting consequences for young women who hope to move on from their cancer experience to achieve important life goals such as having children.

“For women at risk of early menopause, delaying fertility-related decisions may cause them to miss their narrowed window of opportunity to preserve their fertility, if desired.”

The study was published in the journal Cancer.

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