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Fertility Preservation Prior to Therapy for Cancer: Updated Guidelines

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has updated its guidelines for fertility preservation prior to treatment for cancer. The full version of ASCO’s updates can be found here: www.asco.org/guidelines/fertility.

Among individuals who are diagnosed with cancer prior to starting a family, whether these individuals are adolescents or adults, the issue of fertility preservation to allow for children following treatment has become an area of considerable study.

Unfortunately, several types of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy may significantly reduce fertility rates. Therefore, healthcare providers are now having discussions with cancer patients who are young enough to start a family in the future regarding preservation of their fertility for their future.

The guidelines recommended included the freezing of embryos, eggs or sperm prior to initiation of therapy. In addition, the guidelines included radiation therapy and surgery done in such a way as to preserve the female reproductive organs, if possible and sperm banking.

Some investigational options were also within the guidelines including the freezing of tissue from ovaries or the testicles. For females, taking hormones to suppress ovarian function during treatment was also listed as an investigational option. A patient-friendly version of these ASCO updates can be found here: http://www.cancer.net/sites/cancer.net/files/fertility_preservation_infographic.pdf.

Within the guidelines, it was advised that healthcare providers take the time to have important discussions and appropriate referrals for fertility preservation among men, women and adolescents diagnosed with cancer.

Reference: American Society of Clinical Oncology. Fertility Preservation for Patients with Cancer: American Society of Clinical Oncology Clinical Practice Guideline Update. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2013;31(19):2500-2510.