A new survey conducted by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute shows more than half of young breast cancer survivors overestimated their risk for developing treatment-related infertility problems.
Nearly 700 members of the advocacy organization Young Survival Coalition Group who were 40 years old or younger were surveyed. More than half of the respondents, or 57 percent, said they were concerned about being infertile as a result of cancer treatments they had undergone.
Past research has revealed that few women in this age group go through menopause because of standard treatment, and some studies even show a zero-percent incidence in patients.
Ann H. Partridge, M.D., says this study should serve as a wakeup call for health care providers.
"We don't have a great system for educating these women and showing them data -- even if incomplete -- about these questions and advising them on what they can consider to attempt to preserve fertility," says Dr. Partridge."[Women's] risk perceptions are likely grossly exaggerated; there is room for education here."
Doctors often assume infertility concerns are more prevalent in younger women with less-advanced stages of cancer. However, research shows that infertility is an issue for women who have a desire to bear children, regardless of age or cancer stage.
Dr. Partridge also says the effects of older treatments are fairly well known, but there is less information on the more modern ways of delivering chemotherapy.
The study was presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. Researchers say it is the largest study to date that addresses infertility and menopausal concerns among young women with breast cancer.