Research has shown that 90% of younger females who have been diagnosed with breast cancer are not being referred to a fertility clinic to receive information regarding the potential of freezing eggs or embryos prior to treatment.
The natural operation of a woman’s ovaries can be affected by chemotherapy and may result in them becoming infertile, however they are not being offered the advice they require, according to Breast Cancer Care.
The charity conducted the survey and stated that almost 5000 females under the age of 45 are not receiving fertility care after their diagnoses.
According to the chief executive at Breast Cancer Care, Samia al Qadhi, many of the healthcare professionals are not having discussions with these women about fertility options and referral systems have not been implemented.
She said that it is a matter of urgency that all healthcare professionals discuss fertility options with women at the time of diagnosis.
The charity undertook a survey of 50 surgeons, nurses and breast cancer oncologists and discovered that at least one third were not informing younger breast cancer patients of the impact treatment could have on their fertility, which leaves them oblivious to the risks involved. One quarter stipulated that they did not have a system whereby patients are directed to fertility clinics.
A 45-year old from south Wales, Catherine Coombe, received a breast cancer diagnosis five years ago. At the time she was single and was not offered an opportunity to discuss her situation with a fertility specialist. She said the issue was not addressed at all and at the time she was so overwhelmed by the diagnosis that she did not give it a second thought. She stated that it was only much later that she realised that she would be unable to have her own children, which has resulted in moving on with her life much more difficult.
A director of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, Juliet Tizzard, said it was medical best practice to refer breast cancer patients. She said that they are urging clinicians to routinely refer all cancer patients who are considering freezing their eggs.
Researchers communicated with 176 females aged 45 and under who had received breast cancer diagnoses. Of these, 88% said they had not been referred to a fertility specialist.