Infertility Common Among Cancer Survivors, Though Most Eventually Achieve Pregnancy — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
July 15, 2013

Infertility Common Among Cancer Survivors, Though Most Eventually Achieve Pregnancy

By Amy Orciari Herman

Female survivors of childhood cancer face a higher risk for infertility than their sisters, a Lancet Oncology study finds. However, nearly two thirds of infertile survivors do go on to get pregnant.

Researchers enrolled some 3500 women who were diagnosed with cancer before age 21 and survived for at least 5 years, as well as 1400 of their cancer-free siblings. Cancer diagnoses included leukemia, central nervous system cancers, lymphoma, Wilms' tumor, neuroblastoma, soft-tissue sarcoma, and bone tumors.

Overall, cancer survivors were 50% more likely than siblings to report clinical infertility (i.e., trying unsuccessfully to conceive for at least a year). Increasing exposures to alkylating agents and pelvic radiotherapy were associated with increasing infertility risks. Nonetheless, 64% of infertile survivors ultimately achieved a pregnancy.

Among all infertile participants, survivors were less likely than siblings to receive drugs to promote conception. Accordingly, the researchers "are concerned about a provider bias against treating cancer survivors for infertility."

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