Teenage cancer patients are not getting enough information about their future fertility, putting at risk their chances of becoming parents, experts have warned.
While NHS hospitals regularly offer young men facing chemotherapy the chance to freeze their sperm, many routinely fail to remind female patients that they can cryopreserve their eggs.
Fertility specialist Valerie Peddie told the Royal College Nursing's International Centenary Conference that at times future fertility issues are not taken into account when planning care. Aggressive cancer treatment can leave patients infertile, and official guidelines require hospitals to offer fertility preservation treatment if the prognosis is good enough.
"For so long, cancer treatment has focused on one thing - survival," she said. But while this will always be the priority for any cancer patient and those treating them, we have now progressed to a point where many patients have the time to explore their options and think about life after cancer.
Teenage patients are unlikely to have even considered their future fertility or know it could be impacted by their cancer treatment, therefore it is essential that these issues are raised and discussed by health care staff.
Until recently, fertility preservation in young women was considered experimental, however, advances in technology now afford young female patients equal opportunities to their male counterparts.
"It's vital therefore, that we move towards a time when all young people diagnosed with cancer can benefit from these treatments which have the potential for positive outcomes in the future."
‘Deciding whether to have children is a central part of many lives, and no one should be denied this opportunity because they were unaware of their options.’